Employee Discipline and Features of a Sound Disciplinary System

Discipline means systematically conducting the business by the organizational members who strictly adhere to the essential rules and regulations. These employees/organizational members work together as a team so as to achieve organizational mission as well as vision and they truly understand that the individual and group aims and desires must be matched so as to ensure organizational success.

A disciplined employee will be organized and an organized employee will be disciplined always. Employee behaviour is the base of discipline in an organization. Discipline implies confirming with the code of conduct established by the organization. Discipline in an organization ensures productivity and efficiency. It encourages harmony and co-operation among employees as well as acts as a morale booster for the employees. In absence of discipline, there will be chaos, confusion, corruption and disobedience in an organization.

In short, discipline implies obedience, orderliness and maintenance of proper subordination among employees. Work recognition, fair and equitable treatment of employees, appropriate salary structure, effective grievance handling and job-security all contribute to organizational discipline.

Discipline is viewed from two angles/dimensions:

  1. Positive Discipline: Positive Discipline implies discipline without punishment. The main aim is to ensure and encourage self-discipline among the employees. The employees in this case identify the group objectives as their own objectives and strive hard to achieve them. The employees follow and adhere to the rules and regulations not due to the fear of punishment but due to the inherent desire to harmonize in achieving organizational goals. Employees exercise self-control to meet these goals.

  2. Negative Discipline: Employees adhere to rules and regulations in fear of punishment which may be in form of fines, penalties, demotions or transfers. In this case, the employees do not perceive organizational goals as their own goals. The action taken by the management to ensure desired standard of behaviour/code of conduct from the employees in an organization is called negative discipline. The fear of punishment prevents the employees from going off-track.

Characteristics of a Sound Disciplinary System (Red Hot Stove Rule)

Discipline should be imposed without generating resentment. Mc Gregor propounded the “red hot stove rule” which says that a sound and effective disciplinary system in an organization should have the following characteristics-

  1. Immediate- Just as when you touch a red hot stove, the burn is immediate, similarly the penalty for violation should be immediate/ immediate disciplinary action must be taken for violation of rules.
  2. Consistent- Just as a red hot stove burns everyone in same manner; likewise, there should be high consistency in a sound disciplinary system.
  3. Impersonal- Just as a person is burned because he touches the red hot stove and not because of any personal feelings, likewise, impersonality should be maintained by refraining from personal or subjective feelings.
  4. Prior warning and notice- Just as an individual has a warning when he moves closer to the stove that he would be burned on touching it, likewise, a sound disciplinary system should give advance warning to the employees as to the implications of not conforming to the standards of behaviour/code of conduct in an organization.

In short, a sound disciplinary system presupposes-

  1. Acquaintance/Knowledge of rules- The employees should be well aware of the desired code of conduct/ standards of behaviour in the organization. This code of discipline should be published in employee handbook.
  2. Timely action- Timely enquiry should be conducted for breaking the code of conduct in an organization. The more later the enquiry is made, the more forgetful one becomes and the more he feels that punishment is not deserved.
  3. Fair and just action- There should be same punishment for same offence/ misconduct. There should be no favouritism. Discipline should be uniformly enforced always.
  4. Positive approach- The disciplinary system should be preventive and not punitive. Concentrate on preventing misconduct and not on imposing penalties. The employees should not only be explained the reason for actions taken against them but also how such fines and penalties can be avoided in future.

Types of Penalties for Misconduct/Indiscipline

For not following the standards of behaviour/code of conduct in an organization, there are two kinds of penalties categorized as-

  1. Major penalties- This includes demotion, dismissal, transfer, discharge, withholding increments, etc.
  2. Minor penalties- This includes oral warning, written warning, fines, loss of privileges, etc.


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