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Chapter 13. When Team Members Don't Make... > Formal Disciplinary Action - Pg. 154

When Team Members Don't Make the Grade 154 The two primary reasons progressive discipline is necessary are poor performance and poor con- duct. If performance is the problem, probation is the last step before termination. If despite all the retraining, counseling, and coaching the team member fails, probation is one last chance to over- come the problem over a definite period. If this doesn't help, suspending the member won't help. If the member can be transferred to a more suitable job, do so; if not, there is no other choice but to terminate him or her. Heads Up! To protect your company from potential legal problems, check any forms or letters concerning discipline with your legal advisors before giving them to team members. Probationary periods vary from as few as 10 days to the more customary 30 days and sometimes even longer. If an employee makes significant progress, the probation can be lifted. If he or she reverts to poor performance after the probation is lifted, you can reinstate the probation or resort to the next step. Team Builder It's not a good idea to extend a probationary period. If a team member makes some progress by the end of the probationary period but his or her behavior still isn't up to expectations, you can extend the time period-- but only once. Continuous probation is bad for morale and rarely solves the problem. When the reason for probation is not job performance but violation of company rules, such as ab- senteeism, tardiness, or other misconduct, most companies invoke some sort of punishment. Up to now in the progressive discipline system, there has actually been no punishment. Each step has been a warning with the implication of potential punishment. If probation hasn't solved the problem, the most commonly used form of punishment, short of termination, is suspension without pay. Although team leaders often have some leeway in determining the length of a suspension, most companies set specific suspension periods depending on the seriousness of the offense. Because suspension is a very serious step, union contracts often require consultation with a union representative before an employee is suspended. But even when companies aren't unionized, it's good practice to require approval for suspensions by both the manager to whom the team leader reports and the human resources department. There should be appropriate documentation speci- fying the reason for the suspension and the exact period of time involved should be made, signed by the appropriate manager, and acknowledged by the suspended employee.