What Is Progressive Discipline?

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Progressive discipline is a managerial tool that involves applying various consequences, tied to performance in a progressive way (from less significant to more significant), to encourage employees to improve their performance or move the process along so that the impact of poor employee performance is reduced or eliminated.

(adapted from Manager's Guide To Performance Reviews, by Robert Bacal, p. 186)

In simplest terms it involves communicating with the employee that there is a problem, and specifying the details of the problem, setting and communicating what will happen if the problem is not resolved, and then invoking the consequences if the problem is not resolved.

The idea behind progressive discipline is to provide an opportunity for the employee to improve. It is not a method of punishment.

See also: Progressive Discipline For Addressing Performance Problems


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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


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  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

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