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Home > Org Development > Corrective Action > Progressive Discipline

Progressive Discipline

Definition and guidelines of progressive discipline

Progressive discipline is the process of using increasingly severe steps or measures when an employee fails to correct a problem after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so. The underlying principle of sound progressive discipline is to use the least severe action that you believe is necessary to correct the undesirable situation. Increase the severity of the action only if the condition is not corrected.

Some guidelines to consider are:

Essential elements of each progressive discipline step

Disciplinary actions are often overturned completely or reduced to a lesser level when any of the essential elements of progressive discipline are missing.

These three essential elements need to be present at each step of progressive discipline and are discussed prior to taking disciplinary action.

Typical progressive discipline steps

Written warning
Suspension without pay

Counseling is usually the initial step.


Counseling sessions are used to bring a problem to the attention of the employee before it becomes so serious that it has to become part of a written warning and placed in the employee's file.

The purpose of this discussion is to alleviate any misunderstandings and clarify the direction for necessary and successful correction. Most "discipline" problems are solved at this stage.

If some progress is seen, this counseling step can be repeated to allow the employee full opportunity to correct the problem.

It is not necessary to document the counseling session as it is considered an informal step in progressive discipline. However, a brief statement confirming the subject matter discussed and the agreed upon course of action to correct the problem can be noted in a short memo to the employee.

Written warning

Suspension without pay


Indiana University personnel policies

For Professional employees and Support Staff not represented by a union, see Policy 6.4.

Key points of Policy

For Support Staff at Bloomington and Northwest, see Policy 6.3.

Key points of Policy

For Service Maintenance employees at Bloomington, see Policy 8.1.

Key points of Policy

Page updated: 10 September 2008
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