Firm, fair and consistent. These three words should be the framework for every disciplinary program. Since building service contractors work at customers’ locations, good performance and behavior on the part of all employees are critical to keeping customers satisfied. The actions of hourly employees are a direct reflection of the company, so any disruptive conduct must be investigated and addressed promptly. A good disciplinary program should include all three of these components.

1. Be Firm
• Let your crew members know that although their work may be independent, it is not overlooked. Inform them you will be monitoring their performance and will discuss any areas of improvement with them. Do not over-emphasize criticism; put equal emphasis on praise.

• Discipline promptly so the employee will know exactly what the problem is as it occurs. Never ignore violations of company rules because doing so implies that the behavior is acceptable. Explain to employees exactly why the violation is a problem; do not assume they understand the meaning behind the rules.

2. Be Fair
• Train your crews properly and instill good habits to get the employees into a routine. Giving them the tools they need to do their job will help prevent performance based disciplinary actions.

• Make sure you have a concrete problem before taking any action. Confirm all facts and determine the circumstances of the situation before taking any steps to ensure that your action is appropriate. A problem exists when what is actually happening is different from what you expect to be happening. Describe the problem in behavioral and measurable terms without involving attitudes or feelings.

• Use the appropriate approach to discipline. Friendly reminders to your staff are useful for small mistakes. For individual problems, speak to the person responsible privately or with a trusted assistant to act as a witness. Be certain to address the problem and the related behaviors objectively, without criticizing the employee personally.

3. Be Consistent
• Remain calm and in control when discussing disciplinary issues with your employees. Keep your goal in mind, which is to explain to the employee what the problem is and why it is a problem. Listen to their explanation, but do not let them make excuses or derail the conversation. Stay on track and remain objective.

• Document all disciplinary actions. For legal and human resources purposes, it is imperative that you write down any disciplinary actions. This can mean the difference between winning and losing a wrongful termination suit.

• Follow up and re-establish friendly contact. Let your employees know that it was not them personally that you had a problem with, but their behavior that required discipline.

Although disciplinary conversations can be difficult, promptly addressing issues using the guidelines above will maintain good employee relations and should reduce turnover.

Conversely, inconsistent application of the company rules can lead to feelings of favoritism and employees not putting their best effort into their work. Being firm but fair, and treating all crew members equally, is a necessity for your business to prosper and grow. 

Barbara Whitstone is the senior vice president of business operations for Milwaukee-based CleanPower, a Marsden Services Company. She has been with the company for more than 22 years, holding several positions in both operations and sales.

She is RBSM certified, a graduate of Ripon College and has been instrumental in CleanPower’s move to more sustainable cleaning processes. In December of 2010 she led the project to earn the Cleaning Institute Management Standard, Green Building (CIMS - GB) Certification for CleanPower, a designation which the company renewed last year.