The purpose of discipline according to Dessler (2001) is to encourage employees to behave sensibly at work, where being sensible is defined as adhering to rule and regulations. In an organisation, rules and regulations serve about the same purpose that laws do in society; discipline is called for when one of these rules or regulations is violated (Bittel & Newstrom, 1990).
Following are some of the purposes and objectives of disciplinary action:
- To enforce rules and regulations.
- To punish the offender.
- To serve as an example to others to strictly follow rules.
- To ensure the smooth running of the organisation.
- To increase working efficiency.
- To maintain industrial peace.
- To improve working relations and tolerance.
- To develop a working culture which improves performance.
Dessler (2001) opines that a fair and just discipline process is based on three foundations: rules and regulations, a system of progressive penalties and an appeals process.
Let us probe this a bit more. Dessler (2001) states that a set of clear rules and regulations is the first foundation. These rules address things like theft, destruction of company property, drinking on the job and insubordination. The purpose of these rules is to inform employees ahead of time as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour. This is usually done during the employee’s orientation.
A system of progressive penalties is the second foundation of effective disciplining. Penalties, according to Dessler, may range from oral warning to written warnings to suspension from the job to discharge. The severity of the penalty is usually a function of the type of offence and the number of times the offence has been committed. Finally, there should be an appeals process as part of the disciplinary process; this helps to ensure that discipline is meted out fairly and equitably.
Right to Take Disciplinary Action
Right to take disciplinary action emanates from employer-employee relationship and is regulated by contract of employment, standing order of the company (for workers) or conduct and discipline (appeal) rules (for supervisory staff) of the organization promptness in disciplinary cases is essential. It has to be ascertained which disciplinary rules are applicable to the deliquent employee for taking action.