The Ultimate Guide to Discipline an Employee

Employee discipline is an unavoidable aspect of performance management. When done right, it can turn a slacker into a star performer. Typically, the process to discipline an employee in the workplace begins with effective communication, wherein the manager shows the right amount of trust, and gets the employee to handle workplace conflict. There are many approaches to employee discipline.

A more effective approach is one that relies on setting workplace expectations. This begins by introducing some form of disciplinary measure, whether formal or informal, one that carries grave penalties for repeat offenders. Effective employee discipline is futile the manager’s role in disciplining an employee is negligible. Therefore, organizations must ensure that managers take an equal amount of responsibility in performing these steps effectively.


To sum up all the necessary steps in employee discipline, here’s what a manager needs to do: 1) Compare organization’s rules with employee behavior to determine what corrective measures should be taken; 2) Collect sufficient proof that the employee did break the rule; 3) Determine what corrective action needs to be taken – whether ‘formal’ or ‘disciplinary’; 4) Carefully document whatever action needs to be taken. Below is how to discipline an employee at work:

how to discipline an employee

First and foremost, employee discipline begins by introducing some form of disciplinary measure, whether formal or informal, one that carries grave penalties for repeat offenders. (Image Credit: Freepik)


Discipline to an employee can be attained by revealing the workplace rules and procedures. This includes the dos and don’ts at work. The employees should be conveyed that following the dos will attract the appreciation and trust of the managers which could help them a successful career and support accomplishments at the workplace. On the other hand, the don’ts will attract dissatisfaction of the managers which may be followed by regulatory and disciplinary action against the employee causing harm to their interest and sustenance objectives in the organization.

The code of conduct, privacy norms, employment conditions, and other related information is required to be conveyed to the employees so that they avoid taking actions that are considered inappropriate. The various laws like the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), National Labor Relation laws, Civil rights, Company policy, Disciplinary actions, and related information are needed to be informed to the employees to get into their knowledge upon the dos and don’ts at the workplace.

An additional attempt of displaying the rules and regulations about the workplace along with employee’s code of conduct can be made to attract the attention of employees and help them recall them at regular intervals.


The warning is the oldest and much-used method that is used to discipline an employee. The warning can be made in verbal or written or both methods. The use of verbal warnings can be made to alert the employee on making the first mistake thereby allowing him/her a chance to improve without getting into the notice of the authorities. The written warning is given when the employee is alerted on a particular action and so are the concerned authorities. The written warning can be considered as a final warning and the disciplinary action follows if the same mistake or rule-breaking is done by the employee.


An employee can be disciplined by offering training, education and development programs. These programs could help the employee get educated and aware of the company policies, procedures, and code of conduct, expectations of employees and other related information. Moreover, this could help the employee to learn ideal ways and methods to perform better on the job position. Once the employee understands, he/she can apply an ideal way of working and behaving at the workplace.


A meeting with the employee by the manager can consist of the discussion on their performance appraisal and thereby reporting them with the outcomes. It helps in connecting their actions with the outcomes. They are also alerted that they are under scanner for their actions and outcomes. Thus an attempt could be made to help them improve themselves to maintain their existence within the organization. This way reporting about performance review and suggestion of applying ideal discipline at work are both can be made to the employees in the meeting.

This way the above methods could help to discipline an employee easily and effectively. If none of the above methods work, it’s important to understand that you’ll have to let the employee go. This is never an ideal thing to do and should always be treated as the last resort. It is, after all, better for the team and the organization.

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Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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