Discipline the Problem Employee

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Employees regardless of what the organization has done in terms of its efforts at selection, socialization, job design, performance standards, and reward practices –create discipline problems for management such as: late at workplace, excessive absences, fight with their
co-workers/peer, consume drugs/alcohol on-the-job, theft or misusing of organization's assets, refuse to obey their manager /supervisor, disregard office rules/regulations, or engage in other similar digressions of appropriate office etiquettes.

The term DISCIPLINE refers to a condition in the organization when employees conduct themselves in accordance with the organization's rules and standards of acceptable behavior i.e. members of the organization/firm conform with what is considered proper behavior because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Discipline can also be defined as a force that prompts individuals and groups to observe rules, regulations, systems, processes and procedures, which are considered necessary for the effective functioning of an organization.

Once employees are made aware of what is expected of them, and assuming they find these standards or rules to be reasonable, they seek to meet those expectations. But, not all employees will accept the responsibility of self-discipline. There are some employees for whom the motivational concepts are not enough to elicit the acceptable norms of responsible employee behaviors. These employees will require some degree of extrinsic disciplinary actions, which may cause them to alert and behave as expected.
Types of Discipline Problem
We could list several dozens of incidents that might need disciplinary action within an organization. Small or big, product or service industries, we have kinds of disciplinary problems that we usually observe. These include: Absenteeism, Insubordination, Violation of organizational rules, Gambling, Damage/misuse of office equipments and property,
Non-performance of duty, Negligence of duty, Punctuality, Loafing/Tardiness, Fighting, Drugs/Drunken-ness, Stealing, fraudulence, sexual abuse etc. However, for the sake of simplicity, we can classify discipline related problems into four broad categories as under:
  1. Attendance
  2. On-the-job behavior
  3. Dishonesty and
  4. Outside activities

 Attendance: One of the most frequent occurrence and serious problems faced by the organization is attendance of the employee at work. In a study with 200 organizations most of which employed over one thousand employees, found that absenteeism, tardiness, abuse of sick-leaves and other aspects of attendance were rated as the foremost problems by 80%. Importantly, attendance problems appear to be even more widespread than those related to productivity –such as carelessness, negligence at duty or not following working procedures.

On-the-Job Behaviors: This kind of indiscipline is basically, infraction of company rules. Here discipline covers on-the-job behaviors that include insubordination, horseplay, fighting, gambling, failure to use safety devices, carelessness, and most importantly, a widespread problem in organizations today –abuse of alcohol and drugs.

The above actions reflect direct infractions of organization rules. For eg. Disobeying/disregarding Boss's orders, ignoring safety procedures, or being intoxicated on the job are all behaviors that are usually expressly forbidden. Arriving at work drunk or consuming alcoholic drinks on the job is an age-old problem. The use of drugs on-the-job is a newer version of problem while more and more employees have experienced with drugs

Dishonesty: Dishonesty is traditionally the most severe disciplinary problem found in the corporate world. One study found that 90% of the surveyed organizations would discharge an employee for theft, while, 88% would discharge those employees who were found to have falsified information on their employment application. These findings reflect the strong cultural norms held inNorth America against dishonestly.  Furthermore, it is believed rightly or wrongly, that an employee who lies or steals once cannot be trusted and should be separated from the organization.

Outside Activities: This category covers activities that employees engage in outside of their work and somewhat either affect their on-the-job performance or generally reflected negatively on the organization's image. The activities include are unauthorized strike, having one's wages garnisheed, outside criminal activities and working for a competing organization. Also, among managerial personnel, this category includes badmouthing the organization in public.
Administering Disciplinary Problem
As a Human Resources Manager, one should be aware that, over time, some guidelines have been developed, that aids how discipline should be administered. Before administering discipline, we should be well aware of the problem and major factors involved with the disciplinary problem should be understood fully. In this regard, we should have a closer look on to seriousness, duration, and frequency of the problem, Problem employee's work history, history of organization's discipline practice, Implication for other employee and also Management strength of backing up should be taken into consideration. It is to be remembered that disciplinary problem varies in their nature, situation and also from industry to industry. Let us have some key guidelines for disciplinary administration.

a)      Make disciplinary action corrective rather than punitive: The objective of the disciplinary action is not to deal out punishment. The purpose is to correct an employee's undesirable behavior. While punishment may be obvious, one should never lose sight of the eventual objective.

b)      Make disciplinary action progressive: Although the type discipline action that is appropriate may vary depending on the situation, it is desirable that discipline should be progressive and constructive. Only for the most serious violations, employee be dismissed after a first offence. Typically, a progressive disciplinary action begins with an oral warning and proceeds through a written warning, suspension and in case of serious transgression, a dismissal may be recommended.

c)      Follow the ‘Hot Stove' rule: Administering discipline can be viewed as analogous to touching a hot stove. When you touch a hot stove you get an immediate response, getting your hand burned up. You have ample warning. You know what happens if you touch a red-hot stove. Finally, the result is impersonal, regardless who you are. Therefore, administering discipline should be compared with hot stove affect.

It is best that the disciplinary process begin as soon as possible after the violation is noticed. Of course, this should not result in undue haste. If all the facts are not in, managers will often invoke a temporary suspension, pending the final decision in the case.

The manager should give advance warning prior to initiating formal disciplinary action and it should be fair and consistent so that morale of the employees remains alive. 

It should also be taken into account that penalties should be connected with a given violation, not with the personality of the violator. That is, discipline should be directed at what an employee has done, not the employee himself/herself. One should panelized for rule violation, not the individual and unless exception we should always have the intension to correct the behavior.    
Disciplinary Actions
Discipline generally follows a typical sequence of four steps: oral warning, written warning, suspension, and dismissal. Two additional steps, would logically follow suspension -demotion and pay cuts  –are less popular in practice.

Oral Warning: This is the mildest version of disciplinary action. The manager should clearly inform and discuss about the violation of the rule or type of indiscipline caused by the employee. For example, if an employee has been late or absent at work frequently or violate the rule of employee behavior, the manager should reiterate the service rule concerning the problem and clearly discuss about the affect, outcome and consequence of the problem relating to his/her contravention. After the problem has been made clear, the manager should wait for employee response. If the employee does not rectify, he should be directed to discuss toward helping how to prevent the recurring. If oral warning is effective, further official discipline can be avoided. In case of failure to improve, manager may go for more severe step based on situation. However, it is necessary to maintain the record of oral warning to employee file with necessary details.

Written Warning: The second step of progressive disciplinary action is the written warning, which is considered as the first formal stage of discipline. This procedure is effective because, it is not only giving the warning to the employee but also sending a copy to the personnel department for keeping it in employee's personnel file. The procedure preceding the written warning is same as oral warning and the discussion ends with telling the employee that he will receive a written warning relating the issue.

Suspension: A suspension or layoff would be the next disciplinary action, usually taken only if the prior steps fail. Suspension decision generally succeeded by oral and written warning to the employee, unless the infraction is of serious in nature. Suspension for a long period should be avoided in order to skip uncomfortable/unwanted situation in the workplace. For the organizational perspective, this action is crucial in case of resource /unique personnel who are associated with vital or complex process of the organization, having no replacement. However, from employee standpoint, a suspension is more unpleasing and returning in a negative frame of mind. However, the suspension is an effective way to awakening a problem employee to correct.

Demotion: If suspension does not work to rectify the employee, at the same time the management wants to strongly avoid dismissing the employee, demotion may be an alternative way to discipline. It is permanent in nature and not like temporary action like suspension and few organizations mostly private, use this as a tool of discipline.

Pay Cut: Another alternative, also rarely applied in practice, is pay cut of the employee salary. Though it has a demoralizing impact, and if there is no other alternatives other than dismissal, it may be applied as a disciplinary action.

Dismissal: The ultimate disciplinary action practiced by any employer is dismissing the problem employee and it should be use only for the most serious offenses. This is the only alternative when the management thinks regularizing the problem employee will severely hamper the atmosphere/and culture of the organization. It is suggested that a dismissal decision should be given long and hard consideration.
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