Discipline or sack?

It annoys me so much when good people are let go for poor reasons. There are better ways to more positive results. Sometimes good people, like my friend, are given the sack without good cause, because they did something that was unacceptable to management. In my friend’s case, it was to speak up and show initiative in an environment that stifles initiative.


That organisation has lost a good person and thousands of dollars invested in his training. It annoys me so much, I am going to write to the minister and secretary of that government department and provide them with an insight into the culture and leadership.


More often though, there are many staff doing the wrong thing repeatedly, but they only get some mild feedback, when in fact they should have been given a discipline interview.


If someone is not performing to the required standard, they should be given feedback about what they are doing wrong. The discussion should find out why the problem exists and should provide clarification of the standard required. The person should be offered assistance, training or more resources to improve, and a review date should be set.


If the problem continues, then they need a stronger approach – an effective discipline interview – not to be sacked, but to improve their performance. To do this effectively there are six important steps:


  1. Stay calm
    Try and develop a co-operative atmosphere and avoid aggression, blaming and arguing.


  1. Be clear and specific
    Describe the problem in specific terms – and refer to the standards expected. Give examples of the errors or complaints. Focus on specific examples, not vague terms like “bad attitude”.


  1. Offer help
    You can offer help and training to get them to the desired standard, and to overcome the problem. Perhaps you need to renegotiate hours or some aspects of the role.


  1. State consequences
    In a formal discipline interview it is important to clearly state consequences: what is going to happen if the problem continues. These consequences might be a demotion, reduced hours, reduced salary or termination.


  1. Put it in writing
    Summarise the interview and date it, noting who was present, what the problem was, and what assistance was offered. It is often appropriate to have a witness – a team leader or HR manager, who can sign the document. Ideally the person should sign it too. This formalises the discussion and makes it very clear that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed.


  1. Set review date
    The review date can be a couple of days later, or a week or two away, but it should be soon. It is a great chance to then provide positive feedback if the problem has been resolved. Sometimes a second or third discipline interview can be conducted to provide further opportunity for the performance to be improved. It is also a chance to terminate the employment or follow through on the consequences if the performance problem has not been solved.


I am appalled by the way in which my friend was sacked. He was told his performance was poor and to leave immediately, because he dared to question unnecessary and unsafe procedures. I hope to report soon on the outcome of my report to that government department.




Psychologist Eve Ash is managing director of Seven Dimensions and producer of the Ash.Quarry Productions video Discipline Interviewing (People Skills series) www.7dimensions.com.au


To watch the video, Discipline Interviewingclick here.


To read more Eve Ash blogs, click here.




Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments