Discuss the use of disciplinary action in managing human resources:
Human Resource Management is the backbone of every company. From a business standpoint, Human Resource Management does many things from being a strategic partner with the corporate structure, dealing with job
analysis, employee testing, recruiting and hiring, training and developing employees, establishing pay appraisal techniques, managing careers, and establishing employee compensation. Let’s not forget that, since HRM (Human Resource Management) deals with employees it also has to discipline them when they create problems. A disci¬ple learns self-discipline by observing a disciplined teacher. Similarly, employees learn about discipline from their supervi¬sors. What the supervisor chooses to teach them is a choice; he can model respect, compassion and responsibility, or he can behave in an arrogant, demeaning and insulting manner.
Common categories of disciplinary problems are attendance, poor performance, or misconduct. Attendance problems include unexcused absence, chronic absenteeism, unexcused or excessive tardiness, and leaving without permission. Poor performance includes failure to complete work assignments, producing substandard products or services, and failure to meet established production requirements. Misconduct includes theft, falsifying employment application, willfully damaging organizational property & punching another employee’s time card. An employee not performing up to the agreed upon standards or not following the understood rules is subject to punishment, i.e., disciplinary action. The dirty secret about managing is that most business owners hate to discipline employees who are falling down on the job; they tend to put it off, hoping the problems resolve themselves. But things just get worse. Most entrepreneurs have limited experience getting a positive response when and if they do discipline their employees. Traditionally, slumping workers were simply fired. Maybe the boss went through a scripted “disciplinary procedure” suggested by lawyers to avoid possible wrongful termination lawsuits, but a focus on actually changing employee behavior was rare.
? Disciplinary Action
When a problem occurs, the manager/supervisor will have to determine the seriousness of the situation and the appropriate response. In making this decision the manager/supervisor needs to be fair towards the employee. Being thirty minutes tardy for work the fourth time in two weeks has to be handled differently from being thirty minutes tardy for the first time in two years. An employee should be disciplined because of what he did, not who he is and never because of race, colour, gender or anything else. Some factors to consider in making this determination are:
Past Record What is the employee like? Is the behaviour consistent or inconsistent with past behaviour?
Intent Did the employee act with intent or was the problem due to carelessness or inattention?
Frequency How many times has the problem occurred?
Time Frame Has the problem occurred frequently in a relatively short period of time?
Repetition Has a similar or the same problem happened before? How long ago was the previous occurrence?
Seriousness How serious is the problem and has it had a negative impact on the organization and/or other employees?
Treatment of Others How have other employees been treated for the same behaviour?
Admission and Apology Has the employee admitted to behaving poorly and apologized for the behaviour?
Before it becomes necessary to issue discipline including counseling memos and reprimands you should have policies in place which define the procedures to be followed. All the witnesses of the event should be asked about what happened. In discipline discussions with an employee, the supervisor points out the unsatisfactory behaviour, explains the need for and purpose of the rule or practice that is being violated, and expresses confidence in the employee’s willingness and ability to make the necessary changes in behavior. During a discipline discussion the supervisor should be objective in reviewing the situation and give the employee specific examples of the behavior that is causing the problem. The employee should be allowed an opportunity to present his/her own case. The supervisor needs to make sure the employee has a clear understanding of the consequences of his/her behavior. The supervisor and the employee should agree on specific recommendations for correcting the performance.
The three main approaches to discipline employees are:
1) Punitive approach to discipline
Many managers (and parents) believe that disciplinary action is needed to punish a person for failing and punish subordinates who are less than perfect, which, of course is everyone. There is increasing evidence that the punitive approach to discipline instills fear and anger, but not increased productivity or changed behavior punitive discipline, which stresses intimidation and punishment, fails to address the root causes of misbehavior or poor performance; instead it address¬es symptoms. For example, under the punitive model, habitu¬ally tardy employees may be disciplined without questioning by management, regardless of the reasons for lateness. A purely punitive disciplinary approach attacks outward behavior rather than creating incentives or rewards for positive behavior. Finally, the punitive model assumes the boss is always right when disciplining employees. However, if bosses want to be respect¬ed, they must admit to employees that they also make mistakes by dropping the mask of perfection. Under this approach, employees will not be satisfied with the policies & procedures of the organization & will turn out to be like this:
2) Progressive Discipline
Disciplinary treatment in most organizations is progressive, whereby the organization attempts to correct the employee’s behavior by imposing increasingly severe penalties for each infraction. Managers also must be aware that certain behaviors demand immediate action. Such violations include fighting, stealing and any other intolerable behaviors a company chooses to list. The usual steps in progressive discipline are:
Step 1-Discussion Verbal discussion in which the supervisor has a face-to-face conference with the employee to discuss problems with work performance or conduct and the need for correction.
Step 2-Assessment If there is little or no improvement after the discussion, the next step is a written assessment. A written warning is more official and summarizes the previous oral attempts. This written feedback is discussed with the employee and then placed in the personnel file for future reference.
Step 3-Suspension The employee will be suspended for five working days without pay. A written record of the suspension is completed by the supervisor in the employee’s presence.
Step 4-Termination After step 3, if there is no marked improvement, the employee may be terminated. This progressive discipline model has disadvantages.
• Management may feel they are obligated to address every perform¬ance flaw and assign an appropriate punishment.
• Management may focus solely on the problem employees at the expense of the good performers, thereby consuming too much of a manager’s time.
The progressive discipline model has two advantages for managers:
• It allows the employee additional opportunities to correct his per¬formance prior to discharge.
• They may find out what is wrong with company’s work rules and polices which can be changed to make the work environment for their employees more effective.
3) Positive approach to discipline-
Fortunately, for many managers, disciplining employees can be accomplished with a positive approach. It can even help boost morale and educate employees and managers in the process. The way to view discipline shouldn’t be negative but the focus should be on, helping a ‘problem employee’ grow, and, instantly, what might have seemed a downer becomes a positive for both the manager & the employee. Always approach disciplining an employee with a goal in mind: What behavior do you want the employee to change and how? Ask the employee for suggestions about how s/he expects to do better, but go into any discipline session keeping in mind your own ideas for improvement. What if the employee blows his top and gets belligerent in his self-defense? A good manager expects argument. Its human nature for an employee to get defensive, and a bit of venting is fine. Give him/her some time, listen reflectively, and then go back to your main point, for example: “Tom, you’ve missed these last five deadlines, and we have to find out why and figure out how you’re going to meet your future deadlines.”
Implementing a positive discipline policy can be accomplished without losing control of employee behavior. This approach includes participation as “each employee has the right to correct problems that arise in the workplace and be allowed the time required to return to fully acceptable perform¬ance. Each step in the system recognizes this employee right. The first step of positive discipline is an oral reminder, requiring the super¬visor to discuss the problem with the employee informally, and remind him to meet performance standards. No handwritten memo notes are placed in the employee’s personnel file, thus hopefully serving as an incentive to improve performance. If the performance problem persists, the next step is a written reminder. Another meeting is held with the employee and a writ¬ten memo of the meeting is placed in the employee’s personnel file. At the follow-up session, if there’s been forward motion by the employee, don’t let it go unnoticed. Let the employee know you are aware of the effort he or she is putting in. Shaping new behavior takes constant, significant attention. If the first two steps fail, the final step of positive discipline is to place the employee on paid leave for a day. The purpose is to give the employee time to reflect on his future. Upon returning to the office, the employee informs the manag¬er of his decision. If positive, manager and employee jointly identify changes to occur.
Employees, who are handled using the positive approach to discipline, will turn out to be happier & loyal to their organization.
To wrap up, disciplinary actions should be taken after looking at the seriousness of the situation. But most importantly failure to take action indicates that there are no standards of the organization and that how the work gets done is not at all that important. This is not the message an organization would want their employees to receive. When it doesn’t take notice of one employee’s sloppy work practices, then it does not matter if the others are sloppy too. You end up giving unsatisfactory products/services to your customers.