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The Abuse of Disciplinary Measures in the Workplace

Updated on December 25, 2012
gmwilliams profile image

Grace loves to write commentaries on psycho-cultural and sociocultural dynamics in its myriad forms.


Discipline as a Method of Eliminating the More "Difficult" and "Troublesome" Employees

In these precarious socioeconomic times, an employee's sense of insecurity is at an all time high. in this economic climate, Bosses only want employees that are extremely beneficiat to the company and aligned to the prevailing corporate culture. Employees must be more viigant and dilgent than ever if they wish to remain employed.

Nowadays, unless it is covertly discriminately, bosses often have carte blanche to terminate and/or lay off employees at will for any reason whatsoever. These reasons range from the boss simply not liking you to not fitting into the specific corporate culture. Furthermore, in order for bosses to retain only the best and most useful employees, they are using (or rather abusing methods of discipline) as a pretext to eliminate employees deemed "troublesome" to the company/corporation.

Usually, superiors use methods of gradual corrective measures before either disciplining and/or terminating them. First, an employee is given a verbal warning before more gradual corrective measures are applied. However, in some companies, if an employee commits the first infraction, he/she is often written up sans the verbal warning. According to many employee manuals, a superior is supposed to inform the thus affected employee that he/she is to be written up. However, in many companies/corporations, this is not the case. Many employees are just given the first written notice without any type of discussion regarding the matter.

Many supervisors believe that it is onerous to verbally warn and/or speak to the affected employee before the written warning. They believe that as supervisors, the stricter and tougher the discipline, the less likely the employee will commit the same or more grievous acts in the future. There are supervisors and superiors who believe that just talking to the employee will not improve their behavior and could only exacerbate it!

These supervisors and superiors further want to prove what a tough and conscientious boss they are. Probably they are in a corporate culture which support the implementation of punitive disciplinary measures. Many supervisors and superiors are of the school that people respond better to more punitive types of corrective action than just mere correction and encouragement.

In the last years before my retirement, I remember supervisors routinely writing up employees for the most insignficant offenses with the purpose of establishing a paper trail to ultimately discipline or terminate them. I recall one woman of prodigious intellect who was singled out by superiors because they were threatened by her more advanced education and intellectual acumen. Each time she disagreed with the supervisor or made an error, she was just summarily written up. No one else in the section was written up and some of these people committed greater offenses.

She was just summarily written up for quite insignificant matters that no one else was written up for. Then a paper trail on her was started. Supervisors began to find "anything" wrong with her wrong and purposely kept her numbers low in order to write her up and give her unsatisfactory on her performance reviews. She consistently went to the union regarding this matter; however, the supervisors kept finding all types of picayune mistakes on her reports, keeping her production numbers low, and then write her up for poor work performance.

One of the supervisors maintained on the aforementioned employee's evaluation that she was an extremely poor writer although at her previous jobs, she received writing awards. Then one supervisor, with the help of a higher placed superior(the supervisor's close friend) , transferred her to another location. The supervisor at that location was clearly aware of this woman's supposed poor work history. She was not given choice accommodations but was relegated to an anteroom for a couple of months. She had no computer to perform her work. In addition to this, she was put on severe watch. She had to report to work on time, not being even one minute late. She also had to adhere strictly to the one hour lunch schedule. If she returned to work from lunch even ONE minute late, she was written up whereas no one else in the section was.

Her work performance did not improve. In fact, her production numbers were lower in this office than it was in the previous office she was in. She had the reputation of being the worst employee in addition to being a "troublemaker" because she complained about the unfair treatment she was receiving. In fact, she become so stressed that she had to take at least four months off.

This supervisor actually wanted to terminate her by any means necessary. This supervisor began to really document her work, time, and attendance. Let us say that this employee was in an extremely precarious situation. There was writing on the wall so to speak. It was the intention of this supervisor to make the work situation very uncomfortable for her. This was common knowledge to everyone. However, she refused to acknowledge her situation. She believe that everything was the same as before but clearly it was not!

During the last year before her termination, her work situation become quite unbearable. Her work production numbers was kept abysmally low. Even her immediate supervisor stated that this supervisor had an animus against her and it was personal, not so much work related. She was the only employee who had such low numbers per month. Each time the numbers were low, she was written up. She was routinely written up at a drop of a hat. Even when she was sick, she was written up.

During her tenure at this office, she received a notice of discipline approximately thrice for work performance issues and alleged misconduct. Each time she was suspended; however, the charges were dropped and she returned to the work place. It was only be a short matter of time before she would be terminated from her position which she eventually was.

There was another employee who was a diligent employee. He also was extremely intelligent and had advanced degrees. His first supervisor did not view this as a threat; in fact, she welcomed and appreciated his knowledge. However, the next supervisor and his superior found him to be a threat to them because they possess lesser educations and had worse work records than he did. Let me not digress. At the first encounter, they had an animus against him.

His production numbers, which was high in the past, was kept extremely low. He was also written up for the most trivial and insignificant matters in order to establish a paper trail on him and to have his work performance be no more than unsatisfactory. However, this employee sensed this, requesting a transfer because he was fearful that these write ups would negatively impact upon his future career options. When he mentioned this to his superiors, they merely laughed at him, stating that he had no future career options whatsoever!

These supervisors keep the production records of those workers who were intelligent down while supplying easier work to the less intelligent employees with the purpose of improving their production. One employee who was not considered the brightest employee around consistently had high production numbers. The reason was that the supervisor gave all the easier cases to him. In fact, the superiors at the section adored him because he was a sycophant to them whereas the aforementioned employee was intelligent and had an independent mind.

I remember during one meeting discussing work performance issues, the latter employee presented an intelligent methodology; however, the superiors dismissed him, publicly calling him stupid and laughed at him! This employee habitually received writeups and unsatisfactory or near unsatisfactory ratings under these superiors' tenure. It was the intent of these superiors to damage and destroy this employee's once stellar work reputation.

This employee scored very high on a promotional test and was scheduled for an interview. There were six interviews altogether and no one would hire him as a supervisor because of his tarnished reputation. However, he was interviewed and given a promotional position; however, he was set up for failure. The superior at that office summarily demoted him within three months. This superior based this employee's reputation not upon actual proof but upon what his former superiors said about him. I recall one of the former superiors physically threatening this employee regarding a disagreement about work issues!

This was not the only place where such things occur. It is rife in many companies and/or corporations. Many supervisors and superiors, upon pretext, usually discipline employees who they deem "the odd person out" more than they do employees who they considered to be more of the status quo. Bosses want their companies and corporations to run as smooth and to be as proftiable as possible. To these bosses, any distractions and deviations would seriously affect their bottom line! So the less distractions, the better! Furthermore, if there are distractions for whatever reasons, it is best to eliminate them now for the overall benefit of the company and corporation! In other words, the less threatening an employee is, the better it is for the boss to manage and for the smooth functioning of the corporate entity!

In summation, in these precarious economic times, an employee's job security is more frought with peril than ever before. If it is not covertly discriminatory, bosses can terminate an employee at will, often for the most insignificant reasons. Many bosses and superiors realize this and often abuse the disciplinary process in order to ostracize and eventually terminate employees who are deemed more difficult and threatening to the corporate status quo for whatever reason they deem necessary.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Exactly, the workplace is being worse now. Employers know this & act accordingly.

    • WillieJS profile image

      Willie Velthuizen 5 months ago from Durban, South Africa

      Well written and unfortunately it is common in our country. The main reasons for this is an ineffective and outdated labour law, non existent labour department,abundance of job seekers due to high unemployment rates, poor management training and greed of employers to increase turnover year on year.

      It just comes done to poor management and incompetence.