Does Your Discipline Process Work? Part 1 and 2

Does Your Discipline Process Work Part 1 and 2

Recently, I heard a customer tell me, “I have never seen an employee stick around after having been through a performance improvement process.”

The issue with many organizations is that they approach discipline in a negative way. The process is rife with threats, warnings and ultimatums, and consequently, good employees abandon bad managers.

However when discipline is handled right, it could be an effective method to help employees and teams to be successful.

It’s all about building the habit of commitment rather than the requirement to comply.

Here are some underlying assumptions that my opinion, ought to guide your discipline and aid in building commitment to your team.

Discipline is conducted in a manner that preserves the team members’ self-esteem. (Marginalizing individuals isn’t an effective method to earn their commitment to this discipline procedure.)

A discipline procedure is generally performed when behavior changes do not occur as a result of regular feedback. Feedback is a distinct process that usually precedes discipline. However, there are exceptions to this principle for instance, a sever behavior of harassment, or in violation of external rules and regulations.

Everyone is entitled to be aware of what is expected of them and the things they must accomplish to be successful. The leaders who lack the courage to communicate with employees via the process of feedback and discipline are not fulfilling their role as leaders.

Discipline is a method to assist people in their success and also to inform them when they’re not meeting your expectations.

The same principles apply for feedback. Discipline must be based on behavior precise, timely, and specific.

Each team member should be part of the process of gaining acceptance of the change in behavior.

They have to be accountable to make the necessary changes.

The issue in many organizations is that the leaders do not have the necessary training to successfully manage disciplining procedures. This is why they commit the following mistakes that rarely lead to changes in the behavior of the person who is involved.

1. Surprise

an employee with discipline without receiving feedback formalized. This is a common occurrence in the workplace. The manager doesn’t bother to go through the process of giving feedback (note the fact that it is separate that is distinct from the discipline process) and instead directs the employee to the discipline procedure. The manager usually issues an oral or written “warning” and asks for the signature of the employee without the confidence to give feedback in the first place.

Mistake 2:

Not engaging the team participant involved in the procedure. Most of the time, the discipline process is a single-sided rant between the boss and team members. How likely would you be to change your behavior if you were not given a “say.” If you are not involved with the change process employees is more likely switch organizations or managers in lieu of changing their behavior.

3. not communicating

the procedure in a clear manner to team members. Sometimes, the process of disciplining occurs and the manager is unable to explain what the procedure is in the first place. In addition is that the manager doesn’t let teammates know the discussion is a disciplinary discussion. It is essential that the organization and managers communicate the procedure, as otherwise employees won’t be able to believe the procedure was designed to assist them in achieving their goals.


Over-reliance on Human Resources (HR). The problem in many companies is that managers do not take the responsibility of providing feedback directly to the employee. They just throw it over on the floor to HR. This isn’t management. HR should be there for advice to the manager as well as assist in the process. However, it is the manager who has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the positive discipline process is implemented.


Not being able to record the entire process. Each stage of the discipline process must be recorded, from oral counseling, to the written reminder up to Decision Day Leave process (more about this in the third part). Documentation is the primary option an organization faces when it comes to wrongful termination suits.

These are only a few of the frequent and costly errors managers commit in their discipline processes. What do you think are the biggest mistakes in your workplace you’d like to change? What assumptions guide the way your company conducts discipline?

Stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4, in which I’ll talk about the three phases of the continuum of discipline and the steps to follow for conducting a positive discipline dialogue.

You’ll never want to miss it.

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