Disciplinary Action

Maintaining a productive and harmonious work environment sometimes necessitates taking disciplinary action. However, the process can be intricate and delicate, requiring a nuanced approach to ensure fairness and compliance.

What is Disciplinary Action?

Disciplinary action at work refers to the measures taken by employers to address employee misconduct, rule violation, or performance issues. It serves as a corrective tool aimed at maintaining workplace standards, fostering accountability, and preserving organisational integrity. 

While specific protocols may vary across companies and industries, disciplinary action typically follows a structured process outlined in the organisation's policies and procedures.

What Behaviours Or Actions Warrant Disciplinary Action?

In most cases, employees get “written up” or officially notified for violating rules and regulations that the organisation puts emphasis on. For instance, customer-facing employees often have strict rules in dress code and choice of words; in some industries, an employee must maintain a certain number of positive client feedback. 

Still, some behaviours and actions almost always require some level of discipline. These include:

Attendance Issues

Unauthorised absences or chronic lateness can disrupt workflow and productivity, warranting disciplinary intervention.

Performance Concerns

Consistent subpar performance, failure to meet deadlines, or neglect of job responsibilities may require corrective action to address deficiencies.

Violation of Policies

Violations of company policies, such as harassment, discrimination, substance abuse, or confidentiality breaches, demand immediate attention to uphold organisational values and legal compliance.


Instances of insubordination, workplace aggression, dishonesty, or unethical behaviour necessitate disciplinary measures to maintain a respectful and professional work environment. 

Common Types of Disciplinary Action

Disciplinary actions can take various forms, ranging from informal verbal warnings to severe consequences like termination. Some companies include retraining, loss of privilege, and temporary pay cut as part of their disciplinary measures. 

Below are the common types of disciplinary actions at work: 

Verbal Warning

An informal conversation between the employee and supervisor highlighting concerns and expectations for improvement. Note that though the corrective measure is verbal, it’s still crucial for the supervisor to properly document it. 

Written Warning

A formal written documentation of the employee's misconduct or performance issues, outlining consequences for continued infractions.


Temporary removal of the employee from work duties as a disciplinary measure, with or without pay, depending on company policies.


Reassignment of the employee to a lower position or reduced responsibilities as a consequence of performance or behavioural issues.


The ultimate disciplinary action, involving the cessation of employment due to severe or repeated infractions, gross misconduct, irreparable performance deficiencies, or policy violations. 

Does Disciplinary Action Often Lead To Termination?

While termination is a potential outcome of disciplinary action, it is not always inevitable. The severity of the infraction, the employee's past performance, mitigating circumstances, and organisational policies all influence the disciplinary process's outcome. 

Employers should approach each situation judiciously, considering alternatives to termination whenever feasible, such as additional training, coaching, or probationary periods.

Best Practices When Facilitating Disciplinary Actions on Employees

Navigating disciplinary action requires tact, empathy, and adherence to procedural fairness. Here are some best practices for employers and HR professionals:

Ensure clear communication

Ensure that employees understand company policies, performance expectations, and the potential consequences of misconduct through clear and consistent communication.

Be consistent with the policies and procedures 

Apply disciplinary measures equitably across the organisation, without favouritism or bias in decision-making processes.

Document the entire process 

Maintain thorough records of disciplinary actions, including written warnings, performance evaluations, and corrective action plans, to support transparency and accountability.

Follow due process

Afford employees the opportunity to provide their perspective, present evidence, and appeal decisions through a fair and objective grievance procedure.

Offer continuous feedback to employees

Offer constructive feedback and support to employees throughout the disciplinary process, emphasising opportunities for improvement and professional growth.

Focus on training and development opportunities 

Invest in training programs and resources to enhance employees' skills, address performance and skills gaps, and prevent future misconduct.

In conclusion, disciplinary action is a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy and productive workplace environment. By understanding its purpose, implementing fair and consistent practices, and prioritising constructive resolution, employers can navigate disciplinary challenges effectively while fostering a culture of accountability and mutual respect.


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