Disciplining – Only Saidists Enjoy It

No one enjoys doing this, apart from perhaps the sadists, and if manager has those inclinations he or she won’t be around long anyway.

The positive side of discipline
The first thing we have to remember is that discipline doesn’t mean punishing people. Look on the positive side of it and see it as learning opportunity to help someone grow and meet the goals of the organisation.
Because we don’t like taking disciplinary action and we don’t do it often, it’s fair to say we’re not good at it. So there are some things to remember when that inevitable interview takes place.

Time and place
The first thing to remember is do it in private and never in front of work colleagues. It’s common sense but it’s easy to forget when things go wrong.
Secondly the discipline must be carried out with empathy, that is, irrespective of what that person has done we mustn’t lose respect for them as person. We can comment on and criticise performance but never transfer that to the person. What’s more, we have to be sure that it’s understood and appreciated.

Specific examples and actions
We have to be specific about things we’re not happy with. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it may be an attitudinal problem. So we need to give concrete examples that someone can relate to. whole lot of abstracts aren’t much use.
The best thing to use is threefold example. First make an evaluation, eg “when you do that job in that way” etc. Secondly we describe the problem, eg “the problem we run into is that it affects others in this way” etc. And finally prescribe, “In future I want you to” etc.
The discussion can carry on from there but those three phases will be helpful if you feel uncomfortable when taking disciplinary action.
If there is violation of the organisation’s rules and regulations then they should be stated very specifically to the person or persons so that they know that the merits of those aren’t open to further discussion. They are set in concrete.

Agreed changes
At the end of the session there must be an agreement on the changes of behaviour that are required and control mechanism put in place to evaluate whether indeed these changes have taken place.
Too often great sigh of relief is uttered by those of us in management when the disciplinary session is over and nothing is followed up. If during the session it’s found that training and guidance is required to achieve the new behaviour, then it’s important that it’s carried out as well.

Monitor results
Of course it makes sense and is essential to reward positive progress.
Conversely realistic action must be taken if the progress proves to be unsatisfactory. It may in that case be necessary to get back to square one and start the action all over again.
There’s limit to this however, and people must know if they can’t adhere to agreed procedures or meet promises they have made, then their futures are limited in your organisation.
On final note we have to be sure that we are consistent with our discipline. We have to be totally objective with all people in the organisation.
Any sign of favouritism and we have real problems.


Key issues and questions:
* Look on the positive side of discipline
* Always in private and with empathy
* Give specific examples
* There must be agreement about the changes
* How well do we follow up and monitor the results?

Extracts from Managing to Lead in New Zealand, by Reg Garters FNZIM, chief executive of NZIM, Canterbury.

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