Disciplinary guidelines

In court, a party can ask the judge to sign an “Order to show cause”. If she signs it, it forces the other party to explain why they should not be subject to the relief requested.

We’ve had something similar in my organization for several years now in the form of disciplinary guidelines. For example, if an employee engages in retaliatory behavior or lies to an investigator, the guidelines points to termination. If management wishes to keep the employee on the payroll, they need explain why the employee should not be terminated (i.e. show cause).

These are guidelines, not mandatory sentences. And, for now, they address only terminable offenses. Recently, I have been thinking about expanding the guidelines to other behaviors that may not deserve termination but, still, harsh punishment. For example, in what circumstances should a supervisor be demoted to an individual contributor.

Having such guidelines allows us to tell employees, in advance, what the consequences of their actions might be. It allows for consistency and fairness, specifically making it more difficult to have double standards for more senior employees or star performers. It can also make it easier for management to determine and communicate the sanction.

However, disciplinary guidelines can also have negative effects. They can support an unfair termination when management wants to get rid of someone and fails to show cause. In some cases, common sense or good judgment can be obscured by the guidelines.

So in this post, I am asking for your help, for your thoughts. If you have disciplinary guidelines in your organization, how do they work? Have you found them helpful? Do you wish they didn’t exist? If you don’t have guidelines, do you wish you did? If so, what would they look like?

Thanks for leaving your thoughts in the comment section. Much appreciated.

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