It’s Impossible to Explain – the Progressive Disciplinary Process

April 4, 2023

Sadly, the progressive disciplinary process is alive and well.  And, by progressive, I mean a series of actions that expect an employee’s performance to get better while treating them progressively worse.  (A good friend of ours who is unfamiliar with this draconian approach to dealing with people thought progressive meant “advanced” or “cutting-edge”.)  He was shocked to learn that this punitive practice is a common approach to dealing with adults on performance issues.

One of our team members just attended a webinar on the Importance of Handling and Documenting a Non-Performing Employee.  She said it was dreadful to listen to and watch.  The focus was on documentation and jury awards.  Really?  If a company has taken the time to invest in hiring and developing a person, barring something criminal wouldn’t the approach be to talk with this person to try to resolve the problem and protect that investment?

Some companies have replaced the discipline policy with a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) .  This is simply a version of discipline with lipstick.  There is a mandate to get better in X amount of time – or else!

Threatening further disciplinary action up to and including termination is far from motivating.  At its worst, it’s de-humanizing.  At its best, a two-communication may have had a positive outcome but watch the employee’s eyes go dead when they’re asked to sign a pre-prepared document.

While a few wild jury awards are often used to scare companies into believing they are mitigating risk by using this process, the cost to the culture in terms of mutual trust and respect and adult to adult communication is real.  Better ways have been around for years so . . .it’s impossible to explain why this outrageous treatment of people still exists on such a widespread basis. These are the same adults that deal with and resolve complex problems just like everyone else outside of work. This process is an insult to their ability. And why aren’t we approaching performance problems like we would any other problem in our business…. By digging for the cause and finding a workable solution.

Learn more about a respectful, problem-solving approach to working with a non-performing employee.

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