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Manager’s Checkup: Are you too quick to discipline?

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Changing an employee's problem behavior is always a challenge, but it's almost impossible if we resort to disciplinary action before understanding the problem. Whether we rush to judgment or procrastinate for months, if we discipline before we analyze the situation, we're moving too quickly.

Take this quiz and find out how quickly you turn to discipline — and if that's too quickly. For each statement, give yourself a score from "1" to "5," with 1 meaning "never" and 5 "always":

___ 1. I assume all my employees have the skills to do the jobs they're doing, or else they would tell me.

___ 2. I'm dissatisfied with any employee whose performance deviates from what I think it should be.

___ 3. I think all of an employee's duties are equally important, and I don't overlook deficiencies of any kind.

___ 4. On my team, anyone with common sense and experience should know what constitutes good work.

___ 5. I expect employees to do what I ask them to, regardless of what other team leaders ask their teams to do.

___ 6. My employees are being paid a salary to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

___ 7. Almost all employee performance problems can ultimately be traced back to the employee's attitude.

___ 8. Part of my responsibility as a manager is to set performance standards; it's the employees' responsibility to meet them.

___ 9. If an employee goes above and beyond the call of duty, I will expect him to perform that way from now on.

___10. I think the satisfaction of a job well done should be its own reward.

What does your score mean?

If you scored more than 36 points, you may be too quick to discipline before exploring other strategies — no matter how long you procrastinate. On the other hand, if you scored less than 18 points, you may be too ready to forgive deficiencies that really need to be corrected.

If you scored in the middle — between 19 and 35 points — you probably understand the flexibility that's required when deciding if discipline is the best or only solution to a performance problem. Black-and- white thinking can lead managers to overlook the root causes of performance shortfalls.

If you scored high, here are some things to remember:

  • No matter how obvious performance standards are to you, you need to communicate them directly and frequently. That goes for both positive and negative performance; if you only pay attention to the problem employees, other workers won't know if their performance is simply acceptable or goes beyond expectations.
  • There may very well be obstacles that you're not seeing — such as a lack of skills or training — that impede performance.
  • Your employees may feel exceptional performance isn't adequately rewarded, or is even punished, by your enterprise. Remember to offer as much, or more, reinforcement for positive performance — praise and recognition — as you do coaching and criticism for negative performance.

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