When a policy for discipline is promulgated and signed as a format to follow, employees are expected to follow those rules without exception or face the appropriate consequences or sanctions. Discipline, as defined was developed to instill or create an order in the work place environment necessary to conduct the type of production the business is engaged in. Thus it becomes clear that this is solely management’s role to impose a set of rules proposed to be conducive to creating a healthy workplace. Regardless of its intent, it is the approach to such implementation of rules that determines a positive or negative reception of those rules and how they are carried out or explained by management. Training and educating your staff on the purpose of these set of rules must be done in order to acquire the desired expectations and levels of job satisfaction. Common sense tells us the business wants a positive workplace and a positive culture because you want your employees to come to work for you with a positive attitude, ready to perform their tasks as trained by the organization and its mentors. Summarily speaking, a positive culture at work results in more people coming to work and doing the job as desired and designed versus a negative culture often results in excessive absenteeism and poor work performance
The word ‘discipline” defined by Webster takes a broad definition and a more complex meaning to understand. For example it defines discipline to “elicit a specified pattern of behavior or character” and “a condition of order based on obedience to authority”. Realizing that employees are expected to follow a set of rules of conduct, and have specific knowledge of training to conduct their tasks this definition could be misunderstood and translated into a pure form of “punishment meant to correct or train” someone thus resulting in a penalty or sanction if not followed. The key to maintaining a positive culture in the workplace is patience and positive feedback that may result in a fair discussion regarding the problem or deficiency at hand. Remaining empathetic and asking questions will stimulate a resolution between parties affected and often resolves the matter at the first stages of a progressive disciplinary system. Supervisors and managers as well as agency leaders must send a message that the employee’s input and opinion has value and that the situation can be resolved. This is a most important element of creating and maintaining a positive working environment.
Discipline should not be a deferred tool, it must be available and put into action as soon as the problem has been recognized and discussed between the worker and supervisor. Accessibility to use the most informal tools on the job and on the spot will often correct the problem without going into the formal steps of filing the paperwork. A key to fair discipline is to be consistent in your actions and treat everyone the same as workers will abide and work for a fair supervisor but will build resentment towards the ones who lack good judgment and fairness. Repetitive consistent actions, an orderly policy and procedure to follow and fair supervisors will overcome most work place situations. Obviously, the more severe infractions will require more intense supervisory involvement including documenting to management actions taken and actions requested to resolve this matter according to the workplace set of rules. The set of rules, however, need to be followed the same way time after time and fairly to promote parity in these set of rules and promote a positive work place culture and attitude for all employees to benefit from and be comfortable with whenever they are approached with a problem.
Charts developed by Jim Klein, December 1, 2010