Coaching, Counseling and Progressive Discipline

Coaching, counseling and progressive discipline are on a continuum in the workplace (Lussier and Hendon 2022: p. 289).  Coaching is not just for athletics; it is very important in the context of management (p. 289).  Coaching is used to help employees and as a management skill it is used to attain to better aspirational levels of results (p. 289).  Employees often will perform above acceptable standards, while at the same time will fall below their best potential and this is where corrective coaching comes in as almost a pre first step in the process of progressive discipline (p. 289).

Moving on from coaching we have counseling and progressive discipline.  In coaching we have a set of methods to help fine tune an employee’s performance.  In counseling and progressive discipline, we have a set of situations that arise because employees are behaving in unproductive and problematic ways that fall short of standards or violate plans and policies (Lussier and Hendon 2022: p. 290). “Progressive discipline is a process in which the employer provides the employee with opportunities to correct poor behavior before terminating them” (p. 295).  Progressive discipline “provides the employer with alternatives to termination for minor infractions. This improves employee retention.  It also can enhance employee morale when the employees know the employer is not going to fire them for a minor issue. Morale can also be enhanced by the knowledge that poor behavior of others will be addressed” (Bruce, Online Article).

The disciplinary process should be designed to demonstrate to employees that the organization they work for has a commitment to due process and just cause in workplace discipline and that the process is not guided by personality or favoritism in any arbitrary or capricious fashion.  Managers often have a difficult time engaging in employee discipline and the top “reasons include: an organizational culture of avoiding discipline, lack of support by higher management, fear of loss of friendship, avoidance of time loss and fear of lawsuits” (GreggU, YouTube).  In the case study in the Lussier and Hendon text (Case Study 9.2), “You’re Fired! Darcy’s Restaurant Follows Policy,” I am going to Identify and define discipline and progressive discipline, and then answer the question as to whether this case study involve a progressive-discipline policy? I will give several different partial arguments as to why it does and why does not?

One basic view of the Darcy’s Restaurant Case Study is that it is on one side (the side of the business) an initial coaching, counseling and progressive discipline situation that is then cut short because of discovering the disingenuousness of the employee and so therefore an ab initio firing for untruthfulness and insubordination.  There was not a final escalated level of problematic behavior on the part of the employee.  Because the employee was overheard bragging about how the story he had given the owner about the reasons for his timecard issues and his expressions of recalcitrance both being false expressions and was not caught in a next improper act of not clocking out for their break, the employee was terminated, this is not a perfect example of progressive discipline (Lussier and Hendon 2022: p. 315-316).  So ultimately this would just be a fully escalated discipline to the point of termination because of a later admission showing that the stories were the whole time in fact simply lies and this fits the definition of discipline as “corrective action designed to get employees to meet standards and the code of conduct” (p. 292) and the top level of discipline is termination (p. 297).

The other direction of thought is that the progressive discipline procedures of first recognizing the excellent skill and food product created by the employee we have the pre-step of coaching and counseling when the owner is seen praising the employee and then refocusing them on the proper clock-in/clock-out procedures.  Then we see the step-by-step increase in progressive discipline with the series of official written verbal warnings and writeups.  The fact that the owner of the business did not immediately respond with a terminal phase accusation of intentional behavior on the side of the employee with respect to their clock-in/clock-out discrepancies shows that the owner is sticking to the letter and the spirit of progressive discipline by giving the employee an opportunity to save face, make an about face and move forward with basic dignity.  The unfortunate fact that the employee took the kindness and commitment to positive and progressive coaching, counseling and progressive discipline that the business owner extended to him and disrespected it, bragged about disrespecting it and ultimately nailed the final nail in their own coffin does not make the way the owner operated not categorically properly described as progressive discipline (Lussier and Hendon 2022: p. 315-316).

There you have it.  This case study can be looked at as either progressive discipline or as discipline depending on whether you see the last issue as an issue itself or as a modifier to the earlier issues.  Coaching, counseling, discipline and progressive discipline are all parts of the proper operations of a well-managed business.  Termination is the final step of the progressive discipline process and though it is unfortunate that some employees push management until they are terminated it is proper to give them opportunities to correct themselves and it is proper to terminate them so they do not cause more lost resources, for their own future professional development and also to not only set the line for others still left in the business to follow, but also to show others in the business that they are not going to be required to pull their own weight and also the extra weight not being pulled by a problem employee.  Coaching and counseling are the ranges where most managers want to keep interactions with their employees and sometimes one solid written verbal warning with good discussion ends up being really just a properly delineated counseling and functions the same as coaching if good relationships have been fostered in a work crew.  Progressive discipline might be uncomfortable, but it is a must for a proper business.



Lussier and Hendon (2022). Human Resource Management, Functions, Applications, and Skill Development (4th ed., pp. 289-299, 315-316). Sage.

Bruce, S. (2014). Pros and Cons of a Progressive Discipline Program. HR Daily Advisor.

GreggU. (2019, March 15). HR Basics: Employee Discipline [Video]. YouTube.