Corrective Action vs. Disciplinary Action

I’ve never been a fan of disciplinary action processes. You know, the process a manager or supervisor is supposed to go through with an employee who is doing something they shouldn’t or not doing something they should. It’s not that I don’t believe performance problems should be addressed; it’s just that I believe the point is not to discipline the person. You know, like giving your 3 year old a “timeout” because they won’t pick up their toys. Or, grounding your teenager for a month because they stayed out past curfew.

As a leader one of my responsibilities is to work with team members to ensure they understand what’s expected of them and that they are clear on their objectives. It’s also important that leadership is clear on acceptable behavior, and of course, unacceptable behavior. A good Staff Policy Manual is a must in helping to get this accomplished.

So, when a staff member’s behavior begins to become problematic it is the leader’s responsibility to point it out. If the behavior continues to be a problem, the leader has to eventually take action. But the “action” should not be in the spirit of “discipline,” it should be in the spirit of “correction.” Hence the topic of this post. The objective in any “corrective action” process is to help a staff member understand that a behavior has to change and to help them in making the change, with the point being to correct the issue and move on. As leaders, we’re not trying to “run the staff member off,” we’re trying to keep them on the team and help them to succeed.

Therefore, the documented process (a subject for a future post) is called “Corrective Action.” It has specific steps that include meeting with the staff member periodically to discuss their performance and how it is improving or not. In many cases there are certain consequences that might need to be put into place to help them improve, but again the objective is improvement not discipline.

Correction versus discipline? Perhaps a subtle distinction but a very necessary one. It’s important to communicate the spirit of the action taken to the staff member, and the name of the process is an important part of doing that.

In my experience Disciplinary Action processes by far outnumber Corrective Action processes.

How about your situation? Do you have a documented process? What is it called?

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