Supervisor's Checklist for Handling Employee Disciplinary Problems

Employee Discipline Checklist for Supervisors

Properly applied, formal corrective discipline can help the supervisor correct troublesome behavior problems of his or her employees and maintain their respect. Mishandled, it's likely to result in undesirable by-products such as poor attitudes, increased numbers of written grievances on seemingly unrelated matters, poor union-management relations and even restriction of output.

Maximum effectiveness is achieved with a minimum of bad side effects when formal corrective discipline (reprimands, written warnings, disciplinary layoffs) is applied sparingly to the few employees who fail to respond to proper training, extensive counseling and informal corrective efforts. Listed below are some questions which the supervisor should ask himself when deciding whether or not to reprimand or penalize an employee.

1. In my judgment, would a discussion with the employee be a more effective way of getting him to correct his behavior than a formal reprimand or penalty? For example, if the misconduct is an isolated instance of misbehavior by a usually reliable employee, a discussion is ordinarily more effective than a penalty or reprimand.

2. Or, is the misconduct part of a pattern of repeated offenses which I have already tried unsuccessfully to correct by methods short of a formal reprimand or penalty? If so, formal discipline MAY be in order.

3. Has similar misconduct on the part of the employee or other employees been tolerated (ignored or condoned) in the past by management? If so, have employees been put on notice that such misconduct (for example, lining up early at the time clock or taking excessive relief time) will no longer be tolerated, and has an effort, short of formal discipline, been made to correct the problem?

4. Have I asked the employee for his explanation and permitted him to tell fully his side of the story?

5. Have I checked his explanation before indicating to him my belief that he was guilty of misconduct?

6. In discussing the matter with the employee, have I taken a calm, courteous but firm approach? All employees, even those guilty of misconduct, are entitled to be treated with courtesy and respect.

7. Are there any aspects of the case, which, if brought to light in the processing of a grievance before an impartial arbitrator or in a legal proceeding, would reflect unfavorably on the character, judgment or conduct of any member of management? If so, this factor should be carefully considered when deciding whether or not formal disciplinary action is to be taken.

8. If formal disciplinary action is taken, can management prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the employee is guilty in the event a grievance is filed? If not, formal discipline should not be taken. Corrective action should be limited to a discussion with the employee. The following items may be helpful in sustaining management's burden of proof:

--an admission of guilt by the employee

--misconduct witnessed by one or more supervisory employees

--physical evidence such as a scrapped or damaged part or tool, beer or whiskey bottle, etc. (Such evidence should be retained until any grievance is resolved.)

--plant security reports and testimony

--notes recording interviews with other employees concerning the incident

9. Have I made notes on all the facts?

--employee's own explanation

--description of the act of misconduct and events leading up to it

--times, places, dates, names of witnesses, both supervisory and non-supervisory

--comments by witnesses

--comments by union representative, if called

10. If formal discipline is contemplated, have I checked the employee's prior discipline, attendance and tardiness record to determine the proper extent of penalty? Have I fully taken into account any period of good conduct since the prior disciplinary action?

11. In my own mind, is the penalty fair, and is it the most effective way of bringing about the desired correction in the employee's behavior?

12. have I taken the time to explain fully to the employee the reason for the penalty and what will be expected of him in the future? Grievances protesting reprimands and penalites sometimes are filed because the supervisor has failed to adequately explain to the employee why he is being penalized. When the penalty is being issued, the supervisor should try to get a commitment from the employee that he will make an effort to correct his behavior. For example, in a situation involving absence or tardiness, the employee's record should be reviewed with him and the number of times he has been absent or late pointed out to him. If this is done the employee may understand that he is not being penalized for a single instance of absence or tardiness.

13. Have I considered reviewing disciplinary issues with the union representative and trying to enlist his help in dealing with the problem before resorting to formal discipline? Doing so can put the union representative in a position, in event of formal discipline, to remind the employee that he had been warned about his behavior.

14. Have I complied with the union representation provisions of the union contract?

--Was the reason for the penalty stated briefly and accurately on the penalty slip?

--If the employee requested his union representative, was the representative called promptly and the employee furnished represenation before he left the plant?

--Was the employee notified in writing of the reason for the warning, reprimand, suspension or dismissal?

--Was the union representative notified in writing in accordance with the union agreement?


[I developed the above checklist for supervisors in 1966 when I was working for a U.S. automobile company where employees are represented by the United Automobile Workers and covered by an agreement which provides for impartial arbitration of grievances involving disciplinary matters.]

Walter Reuther Confronted by Harry Bennett's "Ford Service Bureau" at the Battle of the Overpass

Comments 5 comments

Roger  6 years ago

I believe that unless the offensive is server that all employees should receive a verbal warning first. It doesn't help motivation when you start handing out formal write ups for every small infraction.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

I agree completely.


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

imprccible as always :)


Vivian 5 years ago

I agree completely.. And be sure that facts are the issue , not emblelish statement from others out of hate


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks, Vivian, for your comment.

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