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Disciplining employees: Myths and realities

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

We  often think of “discipline” as “punishment.”  But it means more than that. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness and efficiency.”

Keeping this definition in mind can help you separate the myths about discipline from the realities.

MYTH #1: A good disciplinarian doesn’t worry about “fairness.” When you’re the boss, you simply size up the situation and call it as you see it.

REALITY: An employee who feels he has been treated unfairly is not going to learn from the experience. Instead he will carry around resentment that’s likely to affect his work. The key: Make sure that employees understand what the policies and work rules are—and that you enforce them consistently.

MYTH #2: Go with your feelings. If you’re angry, let it out right then and there. After all, good discipline is timely and honest.

REALITY: It’s important to be honest about your feelings, and sometimes you will acknowledge them to the person you are reprimanding. But it’s childish and self-indulgent to let emotions dominate your discipline. It’s also counterproductive. Your employees will respond with strong feelings of their own, and both of you may end up angry at a time when it’s important to be rational and clear. The key: Think before you talk.

MYTH #3: If anyone breaks a rule and gets away with it, things will fall apart. You must see everything that goes on and not let anyone get away with anything.

REALITY: Of course you need to be aware of what’s happening in your area. But your main function as a supervisor is to get today’s work out today. If you must spend time catching people, concentrate on catching them doing something right. The key: Show employees that the best way to get your attention is to do their jobs the way they should.

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