How to complete a disciplinary action

Disciplinary Action


Procedures established to modify behavior using a plan of activities,  expectations, and consequences to improve performance


If you surf the web under disciplinary action most sites will define it as methods to use when  performance is below standards. Do not base disciplinary action on performance alone! Before you consider basing the action on performance, determine what behaviors are causing the low performance.  You will not improve performance by using a disciplinary action based only on improving performance. To affect improvement you must know:

  • Why the performance is below standards
  • What behaviors should be modified
  • What activities will modify the behavior


Often leaders are confused as to when to use disciplinary action [DA]. Use DA when team members have decided NOT to follow procedures or policies.  First, determine:

  • Are expectations given, are procedures in place?
  • Has the team member been competently trained, understands and is able to use the procedures?
  • Were there consequences outside of the team member’s control that affected the performance?

If the team member was trained and unhindered by outside consequences then they have decided NOT to follow procedures. In other words, when a team member knowingly, and willfully breaks or ignores policies and procedures they have made that decision. Any, and every time a team member decides not to follow procedures, disciplinary action is not only appropriate but should be mandatory.    

Corrective action forms

Corrective action forms should include

  1. Type of action verbal, written, or disciplinary
  2. Reason for the action
  3. Corrective action to be taken by the employee
  4. Consequences of not adhering to the corrective action

How to complete a corrective action form

  1. Meet privately with the team member. You may consider another supervisor as a witness depending on the severity of the infraction and/or the personality of the team member.
  2. Explain to the team member that the ultimate goal of the meeting is to help.
  3. Explain the type of action. Usually the type of action is equal to the degree of the infraction however many use the three strike rule. One verbal [but on a form], two written, and three disciplinary action which could include suspension or termination
  4. Clearly and succinctly, explain the reason for the action. The reason could include incidents, witnesses, dates, circumstances, and others involved. The reason should not be performance. Base the reason on the activities that caused the sub standard performance. In this way the leader and team member have areas to concentrate on to improve the performance.
  5. The corrective action should include the activities expected of the team member including what, when, and how.
  6. The consequences are what the team member can expect from management if they do not follow the corrective action. The consequences should be clear and specific.
  7. Ask the team member to put their comments in writing regardless if they agree or disagree.
  • Verbal – This  is a first warning, if the behavior continues it will proceed to a written warning
  • Written – 2nd warning and will proceed to consequences. Do not sugar coat the warning, if the consequences may include termination then communicate this.
  • Disciplinary – Before completing the disciplinary suspension consider, has the team member been given the training, the support, and the opportunity to succeed? Were there clear expectations, specific actions, trained competencies, and all within the team member’s control? Did you do everything you could do to help this team member? Is the team member aware of the consequences?

Many times managers have come to me ready to terminate an employee until I asked two questions.

  • Have you done everything you can to help this person?
  • Does the person know there job is in jeopardy, will they be surprised if they are fired?

If either answer is no it is not time to terminate.

8.   Ask the team member if they are clear about, the reason for the corrective action, actions expected, and the consequences. Have the team member sign and date the form.

If a team member declines to sign the form, explain they certainly have that option, however only what is currently on the form will be in the records. Advise them to document their point of view in the comment section and sign it to record the information.

As I have stated previously this workbook is not about human resource policies. If your organization has a corrective action, form, use it. If you do not, review the form below and tailor one to fit your organization.

Corrective Action Form

Name _______________________________ Date ___________

Type of action      Verbal ___    written ____ Disciplinary _____

Reason for the action


The employee will take the following corrective actions


Consequences of not following the corrective action


Employee comments


Employee ________________________________________________ Date __________

Manager _________________________________________________ Date __________

A young manager came to me and asked, “How can I make a corrective action not confrontational?”  I explained it should never be. Coming from an attitude of help, corrective actions should, be based on facts and presented in a non-condescending, non-accusatory, non-threatening way. The young manager then said, “Well, could we call it a help form?” Other than your organization’s HR procedures disallowing an additional form, why couldn’t a help form be used?

Help form

Team Member [Print] __________________Coach ____________________________

Team Member X_______________________ Date____________________________

  1. Focus ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Expectations_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Actions    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Consequences ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Comments______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Sandwich Method

The sandwich is a method of one on one critique. The purpose of using the sandwich is to give constructive criticism without causing the employee to become defensive, angry or close-minded. When I was introduced to this method years ago, frankly I considered it some sort of trick to be used against employees. It is not, if it is honest. You must honestly begin with sharing what you respect about the team member. It has to be real or do not use it. The first slice of bread should be a character trait that you truly appreciate about that person. It could be their dependability, hard work, dedication, enthusiasm, diligence, responsibility etc.  What if there is nothing you appreciate about the individual? You may not know them well enough to complete the critique, so consider spending time to get to know them or someone else completing the critique. If you can find nothing to appreciate about them, why are they working with you? The meat is the critique. The critique should be specific. It should be about observable behavior not about personality or attack oriented. It should include what is expected and how to accomplish this. It also should include a commitment from the employee to change this behavior. The bottom slice of bread should again be something you appreciate about the employee or as simple as asking them if they know why you are “going over” this with them. Their answer should be to help them.


I appreciate the commitment to improve that you have demonstrated by reading this blog, however if you do not use the information it was time wasted. Do you understand why I am saying this to you?

By using the sandwich method on every critique you will develop a work force that is more responsive to “doing it your way”. If you have more employees on board with you, your job becomes less daunting.

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