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Counseling or Disciplinary Warning – What’s the Difference?

Minor employee attendance problems, mediocre job performance, bad attitudes, sound familiar?

If you’ve got problems like these at your workplace, you’re not alone. Every employer will face these frustrating problems with employees at one time or another. These problems become more challenging when you have otherwise good employees that just have specific flaws. Dealing with these issues promptly, decisively and effectively can be the difference between wasting your valuable time on an no-hope situation or developing an employee’s potential.

Let’s explore look at the best way to react to specific employee situations using counseling or disciplinary warnings.

Whenever you have a situation where an employee is beginning to fail in one regard or another relating to his/her job performance, or committing unacceptable behavior, the best way to proceed is to approach the situation with a parallel track in mind. One track to create the best employee possible, while the other to setting up a legal and justified termination. The counseling session is not to be a hammer over the head meeting but should instead have an encouraging and uplifting tone. It should always be well documented with all supporting documents signed by the employee.

If on the other hand, an employee’s offense is severe but not enough to warrant immediate termination, a strongly worded disciplinary warning is the more appropriate course of action. Discipline should always carry a consequence if further inappropriate action occurs. Make sure the employee understands that the next offense could warrant further discipline, suspension or termination.

As a summary, a disciplinary warning should be used for moderate to severe offenses while counseling should be used to fix a minor performance or behavioral issue. In either case, an employee should never be surprised if they are terminated, they should have an opportunity to correct any behavior or performance issues.

When to call a professional: When ancillary issues such as pregnancy, substance abuse, physical disabilities, race, gender or religious issues are potentially involved, you should immediately seek professional guidance. There are tremendous pitfalls associated with discipline and termination in any of these cases, so best to tread lightly.

Mike Hayden is with Infinium HR Group located at 29970 Technology Drive, Suite 220B in Murrieta.  (951) 473-7272 –

Written by Mike Hayden

Mike Hayden is with Infinium HR Group located at 29970 Technology Drive, Suite 220B in Murrieta. (951) 473-7272 –

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