Skills, concept and behavior


If an employee’s performance regularly isn’t up to par or if an employee consistently ignores the organization’s standards and regulations, a manager may have to use discipline as a way to control behavior. What exactly is discipline? It is actions taken by a manager to enforce the organization’s expectations, standards and rules. The most common types of discipline problems managers have to deal with include attendance (absenteeism, tardiness, abuse of sick leave), on-the-job behavior (failure to meet performance goals, disobedience, failure to use safety devices, alcohol or drug abuse) and dishonesty (theft, lying to managers).

The essence of effective disciplining can be summarized by the following behaviors:

1. Respond immediately. The more quickly a disciplinary action follows an offense, the more likely it is that the employee will associate the discipline with the offense rather than the manager as the dispenser of the discipline. It is best to begin the disciplinary process as soon as possible after the manager notices a violation.

2. Provide a warning. Manager has an obligation to warn an employee before initiating disciplinary action. This means that the employee must be aware of the organization’s rules and accept its standards of behavior. Disciplinary action is more likely to be interpreted by employees as fair when they have received a clear warning that a given violation will lead to discipline and when they know what that discipline will be.

3. State the problem specifically. Give the specific, time, place, individuals involved and any mitigating circumstances surrounding the violation. The manager must be sure to define the violation in exact terms instead of just reciting company regulations or terms from Union contract. This in effect conveys the rule violation has on the work unit performance. The manager must explain to the employee why the behavior cannot be continued by showing how the same is affecting the employee’s job performance, the unit’s effectiveness and the employee’s colleagues.

4. Allow the employee to explain his or her position. Regardless what facts he manager has uncovered due process demands that the employee is given the opportunity to explain his or her position. From the employee’s perspective, what happened? Why did it happen? What was his or her perception of the rules, regulations, and circumstances?

5. Keep the discussions impersonal. Penalties should be connected with a given violation not with the personality of the individual violator. That is discipline should be directed at what the employee has done, not at the employee.

6. Be consistent. Fair treatment of employees demands that disciplinary action be consistent. If the manager enforces rule violations in an inconsistent manner the rules will have their impact, morale will decline, and employees can question the manager’s competence. Consistency need not result in treating every one exactly alike otherwise doing that would ignore mitigating circumstances. It’s reasonable to modify the severity of penalties to reflect the employee’s history, job performance record and the like.

Disciplining should include guidance and direction for correcting the problems. Let the employee say what he or she plans to do in the future to ensure that the violation will not be repeated.

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