disciplinary action

Disciplinary Action at Work: All HR Needs to Know


There are certain things that cannot be overlooked. Don’t worry, we are not talking about hoarding snacks or skipping Fun Fridays! There are other grave issues that needs to be acknowledged and solved. Disciplinary action is an essential aspect of any organization’s human resource management. It refers to the process of correcting or punishing employees for their inappropriate behavior or poor performance. A well-defined and implemented disciplinary action process ensures that employees adhere to the organization’s rules and regulations and maintain a positive work environment. This is a blog specially created for HR professionals so that you can navigate the terrain better.
Before taking any disciplinary action against an employee, it is important to weigh whether or not the consequence reasonably fits the offense. In addition, remember that once you have made your decision, you cannot go back on it.
The fundamental purpose of disciplinary action is to end inappropriate or unacceptable conduct, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, if any.

What is Disciplinary Action?

Before we move on to the details and types, let’s take a look at what disciplinary action is.

Disciplinary action refers to the process of correcting employee behavior that does not align with the company’s policies and values. It is a structured approach that helps employers maintain workplace standards, create a productive and safe work environment, and provide opportunities for employees to improve their behavior.

Disciplinary action can take many forms, depending on the severity of the misconduct. It can range from a verbal warning to suspension or even termination of employment. The purpose of disciplinary action is to correct the behavior and prevent it from recurring in the future.

The disciplinary process allows supervisors to explain what they need to do and then make changes. If employees cannot or refuse to make changes, supervisors may escalate the matter through progressive discipline and possible termination.

Different Types of Disciplinary Action

As discussed, employee disciplinary action is any action the employer takes against an employee for failure to conform to the rules of conduct. In most cases, the employer will issue a warning letter first. If the employee does not improve their work performance or behavior afterward, further disciplinary actions will be taken.
Let us take a look at the major types of disciplinary actions:

Types of Disciplinary Action

Verbal Warning

A verbal warning is one of the most common disciplinary actions. This is a scenario when the employee is called into their supervisor’s office and told they have failed to meet a particular standard or crossed a limit. The employer may cite specific examples of this failure and explain how this behavior goes against company policy. A verbal warning also reminds what the company expects from employees and how these expectations should be met.

Written Warning

This is a more serious disciplinary action than a verbal warning because it is documented and placed in the employee’s file. A written warning is a formal document that outlines the misconduct, the consequences of the behavior, and the steps the employee needs to take to improve their behavior. A written warning is usually given after an employee has received a verbal warning but has failed to correct their behavior.


Suspension involves an employee being temporarily removed from their job for a specific period of time, usually without pay. Suspension is typically used for more serious offenses, such as theft or violence in the workplace.


Demotion involves an employee being moved to a lower position or grade within the organization. This is typically used as a disciplinary action when the employee’s behavior has resulted in a loss of trust or confidence in their ability to perform their current role.


Disciplinary action for employee misconduct can be implemented for either minor or significant misconduct. While minor misconduct is often overlooked, major misconduct will most likely result in the termination of employment.
Major misconduct like gross negligence, theft, assault, and sexual harassment are serious offenses and are the most common causes of termination of employment.

When does Disciplinary Action get Implemented?

Disciplinary action can be implemented in various circumstances, such as when an employee violates company policies, engages in inappropriate behavior, or fails to meet performance standards. The specific circumstances that lead to disciplinary action will vary depending on the company and the situation.

An employer’s responsibility is to ensure that the employees are properly trained. Disciplinary action aims to correct unacceptable or inappropriate behavior, not punish the employee.
For employee disciplinary action to be effective, it’s vital that both parties understand why this action is being taken and what the outcome will be if things don’t improve.
If an employee consistently arrives late for work, violating safety policies or rules governing workplace conduct, he may be subject to progressive discipline.
Below listed are some cases where disciplinary action against employees can be implemented to improve the workplace environment.

Poor Performance

Maintaining the standards of performance and conduct that employees are expected to meet is a critical aspect of managing a company. Employees are considered the backbone of every business, and their performance determines whether a business succeeds or fails.

A disciplinary action is a tool used to improve employee performance. It may be implemented against an employee who is not performing as per the standards set by the company.


Conflict in the workplace can cause many problems for employees and employers alike. When conflict occurs in the workplace, it can affect employee morale, job performance, and turnover rates. This can lead to massive losses for the company; however, conflict can be resolved through mediation or arbitration when it is appropriately handled.

Breach of Company Policies

Employees have a legal obligation to follow the terms and conditions of their employment contract, including any company rules contained in the staff handbook or elsewhere.
Policies should be clear, concise, and specific enough to allow you to deal with a range of situations that might arise in your business. If an employee fails to comply with company policies, disciplinary action may be issued against him.

Unlawful Acts

Unlawful acts, such as theft, violence, harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions, are often the cause of disciplinary actions for employees. The consequences of disciplinary actions can be severe and may include suspension from work or even dismissal from employment.

In conclusion, disciplinary action is implemented in response to an employee’s violation of company policies, inappropriate behavior, or failure to meet performance standards. It typically follows a formal process that involves several steps, with the severity of the disciplinary action taken depending on the severity of the offense committed and the employee’s history with the company. The goal of disciplinary action is to help the employee understand the consequences of their actions and to provide them with an opportunity to correct their behavior or performance. It is important that disciplinary action is implemented in a fair and consistent manner to ensure that all employees are treated equally.

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