Every manager wishes there were no need for employee discipline. But just as children need discipline to grow, so do most workers. Even the most exceptional managers are not exempt from having to establish and maintain discipline. In fact, exceptional managers know that having a process for progressive discipline is critical to operating a thriving car wash business.
The only employees who never need discipline are those who are intrinsically motivated by an internal draw to the work they are doing. With a little recognition and positive feedback, they thrive. These people are rare.
About 80 percent of car wash employees will need some degree of discipline, and roughly 20 percent will require heavy corrective feedback and discipline which often leads to resignation or termination. This is why even the best organizations need to have a disciplinary policy in place. It may be an uncomfortable topic, but ignoring behavior problems leads to bigger issues and negatively affects the overall health of the organization.
Here, we offer some help for implementing a progressive discipline policy that outlines each step of the process: verbal warnings, written warnings, and termination.
Continuous coaching will help correct process and behavioral issues before they get out of hand. But when should “coaching” escalate into a verbal warning?
To know if a behavior warrants a verbal warning, consider the frequency and the seriousness of the offense. For example, if an employee occasionally violates the uniform or non-smoking policy, a simple “coaching” reminder might work. But if the offending behavior is not corrected and begins happening more frequently, it warrants a verbal warning. A very serious offense, such as safety issues or using abusive language with a customer, requires a verbal warning the first time.
When issuing a verbal warning, the employee must be informed that the behavior is expected to cease, or a written warning will be administered. Documentation of the verbal warning should be noted in the employee’s file.
If the same infraction is committed again, the next step is a written warning. This requires a formal meeting between manager and employee with another manager to witness. The written warning should document the employee’s behavior and how it violates company policy. The employee needs to sign the paperwork and receive a copy of the warning.
The manager should ensure the employee understands that the next violation for the same issue will result in suspension or termination. Whether the written warning produces a turnaround of the negative behavior depends on whether the employee views this warning as a “second chance” and opportunity to keep their job, or whether they view the warning as “the beginning of the end” — a prelude to termination.
The manager should convey the expectation that the inappropriate behavior will change and the situation will be turned around.
If someone does not respond to written warnings, the next step is usually termination. However, suspensions may be used in certain situations, the most common being when an investigation needs to take place to determine if the employee is responsible (often used in cases of theft). In rare situations, a short suspension — usually a day —may be used for “shock value” to show the manager is serious. If that wake-up call doesn’t work, termination becomes necessary.
Here are a few key points to handle terminations professionally:
Avoid being emotional. Stick to the facts of the documented incidents.
Be brief. The fewer words said, the better.
Avoid anything personal. Talk only in terms of performance.
Check with your corporate attorney before termination to determine if there are any special circumstances which need to be addressed.
The most common reason managers avoid implementing discipline is fear that the problematic employee will be hard to replace. In the car wash industry, managers, high-performing sales staff, and key employees who know how to keep the equipment going are often the ones who get away with the most outrageous behaviors.
The ability to recruit good people to your organization is key to being able to maintain a progressive discipline policy. Additionally, exceptional managers are continuously training their employees so they can maintain a staff of promotable people. This allows managers to conduct hard but necessary discipline when needed.
Consider the cost of NOT employing proper discipline. Employees with a bad attitude push away customers and good employees. If you fail to terminate a problematic employee, you lose control of your organization, affecting both employee morale and your bottom line.