The most important aspect for most business entities is productivity. Concurrently, the main purpose for implementing employment discipline is to create and maintain a working environment that is healthy, harmonious, secure and safe for the employees. In creating such an environment, increased productivity is promoted. Employee discipline should not be perceived merely as a punitive measure of maintaining the status quo. The terror tactic type of approach to employee discipline, which may work in the short term, will definitely cause more harm in the long term.
There is usually no understanding of the underlying benefits of compliance. But the effect on employees under such conditions will be to find ways to circumvent the rules, promoting a very unproductive work ethic where employees will merely do what is minimally required of them. (Bacal) Instead, employee discipline must be perceived as an objective tool to gauge their performance as employees, co-workers and managers so that they may improve themselves and their work.
The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of creating a viable set of rules and regulations for employees and two methods of the more constructive approaches to employee discipline, the progressive and voluntary alternative. General considerations in the formation of employee rules and regulations One cannot merely think up a set of rules and immediately after impose them on a set of employees. There has to be a process involved that will make the implementation of the rules as seamless as possible. In making the employment rules/policies, it is important to that they are to be generally accepted by the employees.
In some progressive companies, the formulation or revision of these rules are done by committee, the members of which are composed of both management and employees to ensure that both sides are represented. In so doing a more acceptable set of rules is usually the outcome. For most companies, it may not be necessary for the employees to approve these rules, but it is necessary for them to understand and in the process agree that they are acceptable. In these cases, management may set the rules but they also clearly explain to the employees these rules.
Management can do this by giving them copies of the rules or posting them in common areas or by setting a forum for explaining these rules. It is also good practice to give employees a chance to give their feedback. This can be done be allowing them to write their feedback anonymously or by setting a dialogue during a forum where they can voice out their feedback. In most cases, these feedback from the employees draws out ideas that help in the shaping of a better set of employee rules. The formulation of the rules must also follow a set of guidelines.
They must conform to existing laws as well as standard industry practices. Aside from this they must apply to all in a certain set, for example all regular employees or all supervisors, with no, or at the very least minimal, exceptions. They must also be to some extent beneficial to both the business as well as the employees. Two Approaches to Employee Discipline There are several ways of implementing discipline at work. For the most part discipline is implemented by having a set of rules, guidelines, policies and procedures that the employees must follow.
Usually, this is a combination of written/formal and unwritten/informal rules. Written rules may be in the form of employment contracts, employee’s manuals, and other documents such as employee’s code of conduct, code for disciplinary action and management memos. Unwritten rules are those that come about because it is generally accepted by all. What is important is that all employees governed by these must be well informed of the rules and must also be aware of the reason behind such rules.
This includes what benefits the company and employees get for enforcing and abiding by the rules. Every aspect must be clearly explained to them both in written and oral form. It would even be better if they are requested to sign a document stating that said rules have been explained to them thoroughly and that they understand them clearly. For not only does this help in case of litigation but also because having the sign a contract gives them a stake in abiding and implementing the contract. Progressive Approach to Discipline
Even with the best efforts at promoting an environment of productivity and harmony, there will be cases when employees will loose their direction and commit infractions. In these cases action must be taken. A very effective and widely used approach to these instances is Progressive Discipline. Progressive Discipline, as the term implies is a progressive approach in disciplining employees. (Employee relations: HR-601 Discipline) It follows the concept that an infraction or uncommon behavior must be met, at first, with the least amount of force, power and authority.
Continual or habitual occurrence of the same infraction or uncommon behavior must be met with increasing force, power and authority until such time when there is no other recourse but to dismiss the employee. (Bacal “Error #4: A Non-Progressive Approach”) But more than a progressive form of punishment, progressive discipline is a means of correcting rather than merely punishing an errant employee. (Employee progressive discipline ) The purpose of the initial action is to inform the employee of the infraction or uncommon behavior and to thresh out ideas in correcting it.
It is only in the last two stages where punitive action is actually taken. To give a better idea regarding this purpose, let us enumerate and expound on each stage. 1. Oral Reprimand/Warning – At the first instance of infraction, the immediate supervisor must call the erring employee to a meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to inform the employee of his/her infraction and to try and find out what is causing it. The employee must be given the chance to explain his side and a resolution must be made between the immediate supervisor and the employee.
The immediate supervisor must also take notes of what transpired so that he/she may refer to them when assessing the progress of the employee. 2. Written Reprimand/Warning – if in case the erring employee commits the same behavior a second time, a written warning should be served to him to show him the seriousness of the matter. Again, the written warning must be served during a meeting with the employee by the immediate supervisor. The letter must state the infraction done including pertinent details such as when, where and other people involved, if any.
It should also indicate the actual rule or policy violated as well as the possible punitive action that can be taken if the employee does not correct the behavior. During the meeting, supervisor must again try and thresh out the underlying causes of the behavior and see if it can still be corrected by actions that can be taken by both the employee and the immediate supervisor. A copy of the written warning must be given to the employee and another copy must be signed by the employee to indicate that he has received his copy and that it was thoroughly explained to him. The signed copy will be included in the employees file. . Suspension – after serving the first written warning, if the employee still commits the infraction, the company may act by serving a notice of suspension, which may be from between 1 to 14 days, depending on the gravity of the infraction. Suspension may also be progressive, for example 1 to 3 days on the 3rd offense and 4 to 10 days on the 4th offense and so on. During suspension the employee does not receive pay as part of the punitive measure. Before serving a suspension notice, management must be sure of the employees committing the infractions stated which has brought about the suspension.
It is better if an impartial investigation is conducted to validate the facts prior to serving the suspension. The results of this investigation may also form part of the documentation of the suspension notice. The suspension notice must state the infraction done including pertinent details such as when, where and other people involved, if any. It should also include factual evidence of the employees committing the act, such as the results of an impartial investigation as stated above. It should also indicate the actual rule or policy violated and the corresponding punitive action that must be taken.
Again the serving of the suspension notice must be done by having a meeting with the erring employee. The immediate supervisor must explain the nature of the suspension and must give the employee the chance to give his/her side of the issue. If during the meeting, other circumstances or evidence surface that requires further investigation, the serving of the suspension must be put on hold until the new information has been verified. If this happens, the company may put the employee under Preventive Suspension while waiting for the results of an investigation.
But this must only be done if the nature of the infraction is such that the employee’s presence at work may influence the outcome of the investigation or if the gravity of the infraction is such that further harm may come to the erring employee, other employees or the business itself. But preventive suspension must not be used as punishment to the erring employee because it presupposes that the employee is still not yet proven guilty of the act. In fact, if after the result of the investigation, it has been found that the employee is not guilty, the preventive suspension shall be taken as leave with pay.
The investigation must also be done as quickly as possible so as not to keep the employee under preventive suspension for so long. In the event that the employee is proven to have committed the infraction, then the immediate supervisor may proceed with the serving of the written notice of suspension. The erring employee must be given a copy of the notice and must sign another copy which signifies his understanding and acceptance of the outcome of the investigation and the punitive action of suspension.
The signed copy as well as all the results of the investigations must go in to the employees file. 4. Dismissal – If after all efforts of dialogue and punitive measures of suspension fail to correct the employee’s behavior, it is sometimes necessary for a company to dismiss an employee. It should be noted that it must be the last course to take after all efforts at correcting the behavior has been done. Although for some infractions, it may be necessary to take this punitive measure even at the first instance. This includes, but is not limited to, criminal acts such as theft or acts of violence.
Again, the same procedures when serving a suspension notice apply. and thorough investigation must be made, all pertinent documents that has led to the employees suspension must be included and the notice must be served during a meeting of the immediate supervisor and the erring employee. For all instances, no other employee must be present when the meeting of the immediate supervisor and the erring employee is taking place. In most cases of serving suspension or dismissal notices, a labor union representative or the equivalent is present during the meeting. Healthfield) Voluntary Alternative Discipline A new trend in employee discipline is Voluntary Alternative Discipline. It is not so much an alternative to Progressive Discipline but more of a supplement to it. Voluntary Alternative Discipline addresses the unproductive nature of the key punitive measure of suspension and offers a more productive substitute. In voluntary alternative discipline, the company may offer or an employee may be asked to offer a more productive means of making up for his/her infraction, which take the place of suspension.
This is definitely a more productive means of discipline because not only is the employee’s time used productively, but it also removes the stigma attached to suspension, which is clearly a punishment. (Voluntary alternative discipline) Summary There is a traditional gap between management and employees in which most employees perceives management as the enemy. They draw the huge salaries and flexible hours and conspire to make employees’ lives miserable by being subjected to rules and regulations.
However, in a progressive company, rules and regulations exist with employee productivity in mind. It is clearly explained, discussed and implemented with a view to correcting an error, preventing an infraction or otherwise maintaining a safe, harmonious and productive environment, not as merely punitive in nature. The tend in today’s businesses is to involve employees in improving their work environment by enabling them to discuss with their supervisor or employer the reason for any untoward or actionable incident.