Employee Discipline

Discipline is the regulation and modulation of human activities to produce a controlled performance. The real purpose of discipline is quite simple. It is to encourage employees to confirm to established standards of job performance and to behave sensibly and safely at work. Discipline is essential to all organized group action.

Discipline is employee learning that promotes self-control, dedication, and orderly conduct. In relation to employees in the U.S., discipline is generally used in a restricted sense to mean punishment. Consequently, the written procedures used to punish employees for job deficiencies are called disciplinary procedures.

Punishment is the process of either administering an unpleasant stimulus, such as a warning letter or a suspension, or withholding a reward, such as not granting a scheduled pay increase because of an employee's job deficiencies. Punishment is only one form of discipline; other forms are positive reinforcement, including commendations and praise, and human resources development.

The first step is to establish and maintain a reasonable, but firm discipline line.

TOO HIGH - People are insulted. Productivity drops.

TOO LOW - People take liberties. Productivity drops.

Definition of Discipline

Discipline is a procedure that corrects or punishes a subordinate because a rule of procedure has been violated.· —Dessler,2001

Discipline should be viewed as a condition within an organisation whereby Employees know what is expected of them in terms of the organisation’s rules, Standards and policies and what the consequences are of infractions.· —Rue & Byars, 1996

From the above definitions, you can find the following elements:

    • The objective is orderly behaviour .

    • Orderly behaviour is a group desire.

    • Orderly behaviour assists the attainment of organisational goals

    • When members behave appropriately as per rules, there is no need for disciplinary action. This is self discipline.

    • When some members violate the rules and regulations, punitive actions are needed to correct them.

    • Punishment serves two purposes: first, to directly punish an individual for an offence and secondly, to set an example for others not to violate the rules and regulations.

According to Richard D. Calhoon, “Discipline is the force that prompts individuals or groups to observe rules, regulations, standards and procedures deemed necessary for an organization.”

Therefore discipline means securing consistent behaviour in accordance with the accepted norms of behaviour. I am sure you will agree that discipline is essential in every aspect of life. It is equally essential in industrial undertakings.

Simply stated, discipline means orderliness. It implies the absence of chaos, irregularity and confusion in the behaviour of workers.

Let us examine another definition by Ordway Tead,

“Discipline is the orderly conduct of affairs by the members of an organization who adhere to its necessary regulations because they desire to cooperate harmoniously in forwarding the end which the group has in view, and willingly recognize that, to do this, their wishes must be brought into a reasonable unison with the requirements of the group in action.”

Those employees who observe the rules and standards are rewarded by praise, by security and often by advancement. Those who cannot stay in line or measure up to performance standards are penalised in such a way that they can clearly learn what acceptable performance and behaviour are. Most employees recognise this system as a legitimate way to preserve order and safety and to keep everyone working towards the same organisational goals and standards. For most employees, self discipline is the best discipline. As often as not, the need to impose penalties is a fault of the management as well as of the individual worker. For that reason alone, a supervisor should resort to disciplinary action only after all else fails. Discipline should never be used as a show of authority or power on the supervisor’s part.


The immediate supervisor is responsible for maintaining discipline and morale among the employees he supervises and for initiating appropriate disciplinary action where the facts warrant such action. The line supervisor is responsible for the enforcement of company rules. It is an important responsibility requiring impartiality, good judgment, and courage. Disciplinary action should, therefore, be done by the line supervisor. However, to avoid embarrassments and violation of company policies and rules as well as of union contract, before taking disciplinary action involving warning letters, suspensions or dismissals, he must first consult with his superior and the personnel manager. He must know the background of why the particular policy or rule was established.

The personnel manager or the industrial relations director would be more competent to give advice on the appropriateness of the contemplated action and he would then know how to go about taking such action. Investigations, hearings, and specific procedures may be involved in serious disciplinary cases. It must be remembered that disciplinary action is a tool, not a weapon of supervision.

Supervisors must thoroughly understand the purposes of disciplinary action and must be given training on the techniques of handling the day-to-day disciplinary problems. Such training may be in the form of role-playing, case studies, films, and lecture discussion by outside experts. Supervisors who possess the qualities of leadership are able to handle the discipline function properly. But it is also the responsibility of management to equip the supervisors with the knowledge and skill for doing a good job of supervising, by means of a training program.

Disciplinary proceedings against a government servant who has been convicted by a criminal court is not barred merely because the sentence or order is suspended by the appellate court. : Supreme Court of India

C.A. No. 1804 / 2020

Read judgment below

"When a public servant who is convicted of corruption is allowed to continue to hold public office, it would impair the morale of the other persons manning such office, and consequently that would erode the already shrunk confidence of the people in such public institutions besides demoralising the other honest public servants who would either be the colleagues or subordinates of the convicted person, if honest public servants are compelled to take orders from proclaimed corrupt officers on account of the suspension of the conviction, the fallout would be one of shaking the system itself..."

Disciplinary Action Against Employee For Conviction In Criminal Case Not Barred Due To Suspension Of Sentence_Supreme Court_25-Feb-2020.pdf

In State of Haryana v Balwant Singh (2003) 3 SCC 362

The respondent, who was an employee of a public transport corporation, caused a death as a result of his rash and negligent driving. The Corporation had to suffer an award of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal. Following the disciplinary enquiry, the employee was subjected to a punishment of a reduction of pay to the minimum of the time scale of a driver for four years. On the conviction of the employee for offences under Sections 279, 337, 338 and 304A of the Penal Code, his services were terminated.