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August 21, 2015

Positive Workplace Discipline: Why it Works

Positive Workplace Discipline: Why it Works featured image

Employee discipline may be tough for you to think about as an employer and business leader. After all, wouldn’t you rather plan for success than assume your employees are going to commit infractions that will demand punishment?

However, employee discipline is also an essential part of any human resources tool kit. A company needs to have a disciplinary procedure section in the employee handbook in place that sets out the stakes of misconduct, for employment law compliance reasons and to impress upon employees that misdeeds by their coworkers will be dealt with fairly.

When designing your workplace disciplinary policy, you have a choice. The most straightforward option may be a progressive discipline system, which includes escalating levels of severity, but you may find more success with an alternative strategy. Positive discipline may revolutionize the way your company operates.

Positive Workplace Discipline vs. Progressive Discipline Strategies

The progressive discipline process is based on beginning with mild punishments and attempts to find a mutual understanding before escalating to more serious consequences such as suspension and eventually termination. It is a fairly standard approach to workplace discipline today.

As The Balance reported, the process of escalating disciplinary action starts with counseling sessions. This is where supervisors ensure their employees understand what is expected of them or determine whether there are outside issues bringing down their ability to perform. Failure to improve comes with a verbal warning, then a written warning, unpaid suspension and then termination.

While the steps that constitute progressive discipline policy are the kinds of reprisals workers expect for work rules infractions or poor performance, such an approach to disciplining employees is not always the best option. As a leader, you have to ask yourself whether the threat of going through these steps and punishments will truly inspire workers to do better.

The Society for Human Resource Management presented an alternative take on progressive discipline. The series of punishment steps is something that happens to employees. It is imposed on them by management and, aside from the initial consultation step, there is very little collaboration or give and take.

To avoid simply scaring employees into compliance and good performance with a clear list of disciplinary action steps, your company can try positive discipline focused more on the individuals who make up your blonde woman leaning over another woman as if instructing her

Positive Workplace Discipline: Effects and Advantages

Modern approaches to workplace discipline include a more positive, collaborative approach to help the company and its employees improve. Considering today’s hiring dynamics — in which candidates wield more power and choice than they historically have — such a company policy around discipline may help businesses attract top applicants.

SHRM added that millennial employees have widespread experience of more supportive and mutual interactions throughout their school and work careers. These workers, and the Gen Z professionals entering the workforce behind them, may find they are more comfortable with supervisors who coach them and guide them rather than sending them down a prescribed track of escalating punishments.

Positive discipline drives engagement and morale, as it shows employees they have ways to get back on track, rather than making them feel they are receiving punishments that will impede their progress indefinitely. SHRM suggested introducing ways for workers to clear their disciplinary records if they show a good-faith improvement effort, as well as removing unpaid suspensions. 

If a worker commits an act of gross misconduct or shows employee behavior that demonstrates they truly cannot contribute to the company, it may simply be better to terminate the employment and move on rather than engaging in progressive discipline.

Training to Build Positive Workplace Discipline

A change to positive discipline may not be immediate or automatic for employees or their supervisors. Fortunately, through the use of video-based digital training courses, your business can embrace positive discipline based on coaching and conversation. Since these courses are distributed online, you can easily administer them to your whole team, even if employees contribute remotely.

There is a whole spectrum of disciplinary policy and employee conduct approaches for companies. You can choose to add a new positive tone to your communications while ensuring there are clear descriptions of what type of employee misconduct warrants immediate termination, to make sure your new tone does not encourage employees to become careless.

By choosing a digital training program that suits your industry’s requirements, your company’s structure and your leadership philosophy regarding discipline, you can turn workplace discipline into an area of employer strength.

Check out MasteryTCN now to learn about these courses and more.

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