We are in real trouble if we blur the line of what coaching is and what it is not when talking about discipline.

293746_sLast week someone shared with me that they might be receiving a report of employee coaching form. “What’s a report of coaching form?” I asked. I had never heard of one before being given in the circumstance she was describing. Well, it seems that her company uses an employee coaching form as a disciplinary write-up.

My first reaction – you have got to be kidding me. How wrong is that?

Let’s be clear – coaching is:

  • A supportive environment where people can explore options, test new capabilities without the fear of reprisal or judgment
  • An investment in personal and professional development

Now let’s look at what a disciplinary action is:

  • A corrective action
  • A process for communicating with an employee that their behaviors or performance is unacceptable
  • Written warnings, sometimes accompanied with suspensions

It seems pretty clear to me that the two activities – coaching and disciplinary action are very far apart in what they represent and how employees would perceive being apart of each process. Why blur the line? To be honest, it reflects a cowardly organization.

Here’s the danger about blurring the line on coaching and disciplinary actions in your organization:

  • Employees are confused – be clear about what is a positive moving forward action vs. a corrective action.
  • Most managers do not know how to use coaching skills effectively. Coaching skills are different from management or supervision skills.
  • Coaching will not be viewed as a development opportunity – they will think they have done something wrong.

It is impossible to soften what disciplinary action means and if you do soften it, the employee will not receive a clear message that they need to turn things around. Instead of trying to soften the action by using the coaching form term, invest and teach your managers how to handle disciplinary actions more effectively.