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How to Implement a Progressive Discipline System

Daniel Carlin Frey started his career in the restaurant industry but later moved to the fitness industry after helping his trainer build his business. Frey has several fitness certifications and is currently working on building a personal training business as well as looking for a fitness center to purchase. For more information, go to:

In the business world today, it is important for an owner or manager to protect his or her interests. The cost of running a business is high enough without the ever-present threat of having to pay for an employee who no longer works for you.

One of the best ways to prevent this is to use a system of progressive discipline. Progressive discipline systems are basically systems of increasing documentation when dealing with staff members and using progressive steps of discipline when terminating unwanted staff members. This system can be used to either terminate staff members or to keep staff members that are good but have committed infractions. This is also a good way to give sound feedback to staff members on their poor performance when other forms of feedback have not worked. By using a system of progressive discipline, you can protect your business.

Here are a few steps to help you implement a progressive discipline system:

Create the System

1. Have a manager or a group of managers plan out the system that you will use. The plan should include the steps you wish to include in your progressive discipline system. In my experience, I have found that the following steps work well: verbal, verbal/written, written, final warning and then termination. Be sure to also choose and create the forms you will use at each step.

2. The forms should include the following:

  • The staff member’s name and staff number
  • The date
  • The infraction, what policy is violated and when it was violated
  • What the consequences are
  • The staff member’s signature with date
  • Two managers’ signatures with date

3. Make sure every manager understands that this system has to be used fairly and consistently. Have each manager sign off on their understanding and knowledge of the system.

4. Place a manager in charge of creating the filing system and managing the system.

5. Create a plan on how the system will be implemented and presented to your staff members. This can be done in a meeting where you explain how the system works, what will be required and how each step affects them. At this time, have each staff member sign a document that states that they have full understanding of the system and that they accept it to continue their employment at your facility.

Implement the System

1. Once the system is in place and the staff has signed off on it, make sure that you implement it immediately. This means that when a staff member commits an infraction that warrants documentation, the system is used.

2. Some infractions could include but are not limited to:

  • Uniform standards
  • Cash handling
  • Performance issues
  • Behavior
  • Not filing or filling out forms correctly

3. Be sure to be fair about the system and stay impartial. Document all infractions, regardless of if it is your best or worst member of your staff. This holds true for your managers or supervisors, too. They are not immune to this system and should be held accountable.

4. Make sure that all staff members understand that this system is not in place to terminate them but to help them correct infractions before they become serious.

5. Keep accurate files for each staff member. This will give you the chance to terminate any staff member who deserves it. This will also protect you if you are forced to go to an unemployment hearing.

Once you have these systems in place, it is important that you remain fair in how they are used. When used correctly, you can protect your business against unemployment lawsuits and save much needed money.

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