Essay on human resource management (HRM paper)

hrm / human resource / management / discipline / employee / performance



            Progressive discipline is a widely accepted HRM (Human Resource Management) practice that can be briefly defined as “the process of using increasingly severe steps or measures when an employee fails to correct a problem after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so” (Mader-Clark & Guerin, 2007). In other words, progressive discipline provides an employee with a chance to correct his mistakes, but in case he (she) fails to use this chance, progressive discipline turns into an instrument of severe administrative punishment that can stretch from simple counseling (advice) to complete employment termination.

            In progressive discipline, HRM managers are required to follow several critical steps. First, through investigation of the problematic situation is the essential element of successful disciplinary approach; investigation implies obtaining employee’s explanation, combined with objective evaluation of the problematic situation, that is usually performed by external parties (e.g., specially designed commission). Second, HRM managers are required to document all aspects of the situation, as well as the results of the detailed analysis of various factors related to the problem. Here, special attention should be paid to written records. It should be noted, that written records form the basis for successful application of progressive discipline principles in HRM. In other words, written records are needed to fix the fact of employee’s misconduct, the fact of employee having been warned of possible legal and ethical consequences of such misconduct, and that employee has been advised of what he is to do to avoid similar misconduct in future (Mader-Clark & Guerin, 2007). Moreover, written records may help objectively evaluate the situation and take the most appropriate disciplinary decision. In case employees cross the acceptable limits of business conduct, simple business records may turn into reliable evidence to be used in administrative hearings or arbitration. Similarly, “if you have not done so and the employee decides to challenge the dismissal, your chances of successfully defending your actions at a hearing are greatly reduced” (Mader-Clark & Guerin, 2007). Thus, written records are primarily called for protecting the interests of businesses and employers in the face of legal and ethical challenges on the side of flagrant employees.

            Employers are recommended to follow the principles of progressive discipline in terms of unsatisfactory performance. Unsatisfactory performance implies “failure to perform assigned duties properly; a progressive downward trend in performance ratings; or failure to demonstrate leadership potential” (McCarthy & Mayhew, 2004). Taking into account that unsatisfactory performance is rarely the result of intentional misconduct, HRM professionals should be more attentive to the disciplinary measures they choose toward “unsatisfactory” employees. These may include oral warning or written warning; counseling may be effective for determining the emotional, physical, or other reasons of unsatisfactory performance at workplace. Termination is the ultimate form of progressive disciplinary approach, when employee persistently fails to perform his (her) obligations successfully, and when all possible counseling measures have been used. Everything is different with flagrant misconduct and violation of the company’s rules: written warning and termination are regular instruments applied to flagrant violators, but “imposition of any sanction imposed must be selected to meet the severity, the frequency, and / or flagrant nature of the infraction” (McCarthy & Mayhew, 2004). Regardless the nature of violation or misconduct, employers should keep detailed records that reflect their attempts to change the situation for the better before employment termination takes place (if that was the case).

            Bearing in mind the problems employees might encounter at workplace, companies may develop Employment Assistance Plans to help their employee cope with workplace troubles. “An Employee Assistance Plan is an employee benefit that covers all or part of the cost for employees to receive counseling, referrals, and advice in dealing with stressful issues in their lives” (McCarthy & Mayhew, 2004). As a result, an EAP may become an essential component of progressive disciplinary system at workplace, leading employees to better workplace performance and determining the quality of the social and business interactions at workplace.


Mader-Clark, M. & Guerin, L. (2007). The progressive discipline handbook: smart strategies

for coaching employees. Nolo.

McCarthy, P. & Mayhew, C. (2004). Safeguarding the organization against violence and

bullying: an international perspective. Palgrave Macmillan.


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