Always Have 2-on-1 for Employee Discipline

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

The other day, a business owner from the state of Minnesota contacted me to discuss an employee disciplinary issue.  In general, the owner had some of the fundamentals completed correctly:  behavioral documentation, an appropriate disciplinary form, and reminded the supervisor how to conduct a disciplinary meeting consistently, fairly, and proportionately.

While I was pleased with the owner’s arrangement, I suggested that all employee discipline procedures (e.g., verbal warning, written warning, suspension, termination) be conducted in a 2-on-1 format, with a supervisor and witness representing the company and the employee receiving the discipline.

By having a silent witness present, the company takes a proactive stance on several areas:  the witness can verify the disciplinary process was conducted with integrity, prevents the possible lawsuits or grievances associated with “he-said/he-said” disagreements, and creates an organizational culture of accountability and consistency regarding performance management.

The role of the witness is simply as a silent observer.  The witness is not there to “gang-up” on the employee; but simply to ensure that all documentation related to the disciplinary process is observable, honest, and verifiable.  By taking this additional and secondary step of including a silent witness to all disciplinary meetings, the company is minimizing the possibility of any spurious employee claims of harassment, discrimination, and/or wrongful termination.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.