When you discover a problem with an employee, the knee-jerk reaction is to remedy the problem quickly, either via disciplinary action or perhaps even termination. But on-the-spot discipline can have its own unintended consequences, including allegations of improper termination. Worse yet, a disciplined or terminated employee could make allegations of discrimination or harassment which could leave your practice tied up in a labor dispute for months or even years.
When it comes to employee discipline, it is essential to ensure that you have protected your practice, and yourself. The biggest tool in your arsenal when it comes to protection is documentation. While documenting employee violations and corresponding employee warnings or disciplinary measures may feel burdensome at the time, they can protect your practice in the case of employee allegations of unfair actions.
In addition, if you can take some time before making a decision when it comes to discipline (whenever taking such time is possible and does not negatively impact your practice or endanger other employees), this decision can have other positive ramifications for your business. For example, examining exactly what happened and making sure that you have all of the facts straight (and well-documented, of course) can help to make sure that your decision will be the right one. In addition, you should give yourself time to determine what actions have been taken in the past for similar violations, in order to ensure that you are treating all employees equally.
As a practice owner, your business is personal to you. And that is why it can be easy to take violations of employee codes of conduct as a personal affront, which can sometimes lead to hasty decisions and potential overreactions. For any disciplinary decision you make, ask yourself two questions: Has this situation been adequately documented? And will my disciplinary actions be objectively justifiable? Taking action before ensuring that you have addressed each of these concerns could get your practice into trouble. Extra time and efforts now can ensure the overall health of your business in the future.