Employee discipline is murky territory for many small business owners.
(article continues below)
Although you're sure you have a right to discipline underperforming or ill-behaved workers, you also know that employees have certain rights that can't be violated. So how do you discipline an employee without crossing any legal boundaries?
The best approach is to apply discipline fairly and maintain a written record of any disciplinary actions you take. Although these records can take a variety of forms, employers frequently use warning letters to clarify issues and document disciplinary procedures.
A First Warning Letter to Employee is the right follow-up tool for initial disciplinary conversations. In addition to summarizing the points that were discussed, this letter provides a written record of the conversation for the worker's personnel file and describes the consequences that will occur if the problem persists. With that in mind, here are some of the things this important first notice does for your business.
- Documents discussions. More than anything else a first warning letter documents the fact that an employee disciplinary discussion has occurred. As a matter of courtesy, give the employee advance notice that he will be receiving a first warning letter to document your conversation.
- Identifies problem areas. A first warning notice reinforces your identification of the area that needs improvement. Personal conversations can be misinterpreted, but by reiterating the problem in written form you eliminate the potential for confusion.
- Discusses steps for improvement. The First Warning Letter to Employee clearly describes the steps that need to be taken to rectify the problem. This can be a helpful reference for subsequent performance monitoring and review activities.
- Defines monitoring period. Employees who receive official warning letters shouldn't feel like they are being scrutinized for an indeterminate period of time. Instead, the first warning letter should define the monitoring period, at the end of which the supervisor should meet with the employee to bring closure to the process.
- Clarifies consequences. If the problem is unresolved, there will be consequences. Clarify what those consequences will be and reference the company's discipline policy to reinforce the seriousness of non-compliance.