Factors to Consider when Disciplining

Before we review disciplinary guidelines, we should take at the major factors that need to be considered if we are to have fair and equitable disciplinary practices.

The following seven contingency factors can help us analyze a discipline problem:

1. Seriousness of the problem.

How sever is the problem? As noted previously, dishonesty is usually considered a more serious infraction than reporting to work 20 minutes late.

2. Duration of problem.

Have there been other discipline problems in the past, and over how long a time span? The violation dies not take place in a vacuum. A first occurrence is usually viewed differently than a third or fourth offense.

3. Frequency and mature of the problem.

Is the current problems part of an emerging or continuing pattern of disciplinary infractions? We are continual with not only the duration but also the pattern of the problem. Continual infractions may require but also the pattern of the problem. Continual infractions may require a different type of discipline from that applied to isolated instances of misconduct. They may also point out a situation that demands far more sever discipline in order to prevent a minor problem demands far more severe discipline in order to prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one.

4. Extenuating Factors.

Are there extenuating circumstances related to the problem? The student who fails to turn in her term paper by the deadline because of the death of her grandfather is likely to have her violation assessed more leniently than will her peer who missed the deadline because he overslept.

5. Degree of socialization.

To what extent has management made an earlier effort to educate the person causing the problem about the existing rules and procedures and the consequences of knowledge that the violator holds of the organization’s standards of acceptable behavior. In contrast to the previous item, the new employee is less likely to have been socialized to these standards than the 20-year veteran. Additionally, the organization that has formalized, written rules governing employee conduct is more justified in aggressively enforcing

6. Violations of these rules than is the organization whose rules are informal or vague.

History of the Organization’s Discipline practices. How have similar infractions been dealt with in the past within the department? Within the entire organizations? Has there been consistency in the application of discipline procedures? Equitable treatment of employees must take into consideration precedents within the unit where the infraction occurs, as well as previous disciplinary actions taken in other units within the organization. ? Equity demands consistency against some relevant benchmark.

7. Management Backing.

If employees decide to take their case to a higher level in management, will you have reasonable evidence to justify your decision? Should the employee challenge your disciplinary action, it is important that you have the data to back up the necessity and equity of the action taken and that you feel confident that management will support your decision. No disciplinary action is likely to carry much weight if violators believe that they can challenge and successfully override their manager’s decision.

How can these seven items help? Consider that there are many reasons for why we might discipline an employee. With little difficulty, we could list several dozen or more infraction that management might believe require disciplinary action. For simplicity’s sake, we have classified the most frequent violations into four categories: attendance, on-the- job behaviors, dishonesty, and on the job behavior.

    • Attendance like: Unexcused absence, chronic absenteeism, leaving without permission

    • Work Performance problems can include action like not completing work assignments, producing substandard products or services not meeting established production requirements

    • Dishonesty and Related Problems like, Theft, Falsifying employment application, Willfully damaging organizational property, Punching another employee’s time card, Falsifying work records

    • On-the-job Behaviors like: Insubordination ,Smoking in unauthorized places, Fighting, Gambling, Failure to use safety devices, Failure to report injuries, Carelessness, Sleeping on the job, Using abusive or threatening language with supervisors, Possession of narcotics or alcohol, Possession of firearms or other weapons, Sexual harassment.

Infractions may be minor or serious given the situation or the industry in which one works. For example, while concealing defective work in a hand –power tool assembly line may be viewed as minor, the same action in an aerospace manufacturing plant is more serious. Furthermore, recurrence and severity of the infraction will play a role. For instance, employees who experience their first minor offense might generally

expect a minor reprimand. A second offense might result in a more stringent reprimand, and so forth. In contrast, the first occurrence of a serious offense might mean not being allowed to return to work, the length of time being dependent on the circumstances surrounding the violation.

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