If an employee’s performance regularly isn’t up to par or if an employee consistently ignores the organization’s standards and regulations, the manager may have to use discipline as a way to control behavior. What exactly is discipline? Discipline 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 behaviors (failure to meet performance goals, disobedience, failure to use safety devices, alcohol or drug abuse), and dishonesty (theft, lying to managers).
You can be more effective at disciplining employees if you use the following eight behaviors.
- Respond immediately
The more quickly a disciplinary action follows a behavior that requires disciplining, the more likely it is that the employee will associate the discipline with the behavior rather than with you as the disciplinarian. It’s best to being the disciplinary process as soon as possible after you notice a violation.
- Provide a warning
You have an obligation to warn an employee before initiating disciplinary action. This means that the employee must be aware of and accept the organization’s rules and standards of behavior and performance. Disciplinary action is more likely to be seen as fair when employees have received a warning that a given behavior will lead to discipline and when they know what that disciplinary action will be.
- State the problem specifically
Give the date, time, place, individuals involved, and any extenuating circumstances surrounding the problem behavior. Be sure to define the problem behavior in exact terms instead of just reciting company regulations. Explain why the behavior isn’t acceptable by showing how it specifically affects the employee’s job performance, the work unit’s effectiveness, and the employee’s colleagues.
- Allow the employee to explain his or her position
Regardless of the facts you have, due process demands that an employee be given the opportunity to explain his or her position. For the employee’s perspective, what happened? Why did it happen? What was his or her perception of the expectations, rules and regulations, and circumstances?
- Keep discussion impersonal
Make sure that the discipline is directed at what the employees has done (or failed to do) and not at the employee personally.
- Be consistent
Fair treatment of employees demands that disciplinary action be consistent. This doesn’t mean, however, treating everyone exactly alike. Be sure to clearly justify disciplinary actions that might appear inconsistent to employees.
- Take progressive action
Choose a disciplinary action that’s appropriate to the problem behavior. Penalties should get progressively stronger if, or when, the problem is repeated. For example, you may start with an oral warning, then move progressively to a written warning, a suspension, and then, if the problem behavior warrants, dismissal. Keep in mind, however, that there may be some behaviors that warrant immediate dismissal, and these should be clear to employees.
- Obtain agreement on change
Disciplining should include guidance and direction for correcting the problem behavior. Let the employee state what s/he plans to do in the future to ensure that the problem won’t be repeated.