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Discipline at Work

Updated on July 28, 2009

What Is Discipline?

  • Discipline is defined as a force that prompts individuals and groups to observe rules, regulations, systems, processes and procedures which are considered to be necessary for the effective functioning of an organization.

Types of Discipline

Self Discipline

  • Discipline is basically an attitude of the mind, a product of culture and environment.
  • The approach to the discipline will depend on supervisor/manager and the general ethos of the organization but most people now recognize inculcating self discipline is the right approach.
  • Superior’s own example, integrity and consistency will do much to achieve acceptable behavior. Where superior is respected, he can expect tacit support.

Positive Discipline

  • In positive discipline there is willingness to comply that comes from the desire to cooperate in achieving the common goal of the organization.
  • The emphasis here is on cooperative efforts to secure compliance to organizational norms.

Negative Discipline

  • As opposite to self discipline or positive discipline, negative discipline involves force or an outward influence.
  • It is the traditional approach to discipline and is identified with ensuring that subordinates adhere strictly to rules and punishment is meted out in the event of disobedience and indiscipline.
  • The fear of punishment works as a deterrent in the mind of the subordinate.
  • Approaching discipline only from this kind of a perspective has been proving increasingly ineffective.

Principles of Maintaining Discipline

Disciplinary measures should be based on certain principles in order to be just, fair and acceptable to the employees and the union.

  1. As far as possible all rules should be developed in cooperation and collaboration with representatives of employees.
  2. All rules should be appraised at frequent and regular intervals to be sure that they are and remain appropriate, sensible and useful.
  3. Rules should vary with changes in working conditions.
  4. Rules must be uniformly enforced if they are to be effective.
  5. Penalties for violations should be stated in advance as should procedures for enforcement.
  6. Disciplinary policies should have as it’s objective the prevention of infractions rather than the simple administration of penalties however just.
  7. If the violations of any particular rule are numerous, the circumstances surrounding the infractions should be carefully studied to discover the source of difficulty.

Forms of Indiscipline

  • Absenteeism
  • Insubordination
  • Violation of organizational rules
  • Gambling
  • Damage to machinery and property
  • Non-performance of duty
  • Negligence of duty
  • Punctuality
  • Loafing
  • Fighting
  • Drunken-ness
  • Stealing
  • Tardiness

Disciplinary Action (Hot Stove Rule)

  • When the hot stove is really hot, the heat and the glow are a kind of advance warning so that no one touches the stove. People sit around it and enjoy the warmth. But if the child or any person touches a hot stove his fingers are automatically burnt and there can be no argument about it. The person who suffers will be angry with the hot stove but he has to accept the position that he had not heeded the warning.
  • Same way if the rules and penalties are clear and well understood, a violation should produce some natural consequences. Again, just as the penalty for touching the stove is immediate, so in a sound disciplinary system, the penalty for violation should be immediate, almost automatic.
  • Of course in complicated cases, enquiries have to be made and certain procedure has to be gone through but such procedure should be immediately resorted to within the form of warning or charge-sheet.
  • A sound disciplinary system should possess impartiality, consistency and impersonality.

Disciplinary Action Penalties (in the order of severity, from mild to severe)

  • Oral reprimand
  • Written reprimand
  • Loss of privileges
  • Fines
  • Layoff
  • Demotion
  • Discharge

Disciplinary Procedure

  1. Preliminary investigation
  2. An informal friendly talk
  3. Oral warning or reprimand
  4. Written or official warning
  5. A series of penalties
  6. Choosing among the alternative penalties
  7. Application of the penalty
  8. Follow-up of the case

Setting the Right Discipline Line: Supervisor's/Manager's Job

  • Establishing and maintaining fair, open and healthy relationships with all employees is a key to good supervision.
  • This includes the establishment of an authority or discipline line. This line is well defined, well communicated set of behavior standards that you expect all employees to maintain. It tells the employees what is expected and what is not permitted.
  • Most employees enjoy working in an environment that has high but achievable standards. They feel more secure about their jobs when their supervision is an “in-charge” person who does not permit any employee to get by with recognized violations.
  • It is important to set a reasonable and consistent discipline line. As you learn to do this, keep in mind that there is nothing incompatible about showing compassion and maintaining high standards at the same time.

Managers Should Demonstrate Their Authority and Style

  • As a first step, you must demonstrate that you are in charge and know what you are doing.
  • You need to establish a style of your own.
  • You must establish a sound working relationship with your employees for short term and more so for the long-term results. Here are some tips to consider:
    · Set high standards at the outset.
    · Establish a good relationship with each employee.
    · Quickly counsel those who are not meeting your standards so that they have no doubts about what is expected.
    · Keep in mind that a few important standards (or rules) are better than a list of complicated directions.
    · Nothing undermines your authority faster than playing favorites. Employees need to be treated equally- especially if some are personal friends.


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      Will Sanchez 6 years ago

      Very usefull information

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      ratnaveera 8 years ago from Cumbum

      Very nice Hub about Discipline! Thanks a lot.