THE BOX: Corrective Action, not Employee Discipline

Post by: Michael Melder


So the conversation started like this:

Business Owner: “I have two employees who don’t seem to be doing their jobs like I want them to.”  He provides me with specific examples.

I am sure you can think of at least one employee in your organization that isn’t living up to expectation.

After listening to him, I provided my philosophy about corrective action.  I call it “The Box.”

Employers hire employees to do a certain job; the employer’s defined position and duties are The Box.

An employee takes a job and a position and he has his own expectations of what the job requires and the duties necessary to perform the position.

This is the start of an expectation disconnect; the employee begins to move outside The Box.   As the employer and employee settle into the relationship, the employee will begin to define the job and position he thought the employer wanted him to do.  More importantly, the employee will begin to define the roll he wants to do.  Of course not all employees do this and sometimes the changes are welcome and positive.

However, clearly the business owner I was having the conversation with wasn’t happy with the performance of his employees.

He had allowed his employees to move outside of The Box.  He expected his employees to do “X” and they were doing “Y”.

I suggested he nudge the employees back in to The Box.  Meaning, communicate with the employee in a positive and constructive manner what the employer’s expectations are for the position and the expected duties.

Notice I said “in a positive and constructive manner.”  Correct the behavior.  Define your expectations.  This is corrective action or what most employers call “Progressive Discipline” in their handbooks.

I’ll admit that at some point correcting an employee who fails to fall in line will require traditional discipline.  However, if expectations are communicated effectively, such discipline isn’t a surprise to the employee.

Surprise is what you want to avoid.  An employee who feels ambushed by an employer will look to third parties for help.  I get those calls all the time from jilted ex-employees trying to figure out the “Why.”

Sometimes it is a good thing to think inside The Box. Nudge an employee back – don’t push.