Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Offence and Punishment

A few days back , I got a frantic call from one of my Managers.  He had served a "Disciplinary Note" to one of his subordinates . After receiving the note, the employee was very upset.  Through his tears , he had called up his manager and apologized and wanted the note to be reverted.

"What should I do ? Should I request the HR for the reversal ? He is so upset and demotivated ".  The manager sounded despondent.

It was a firm "No" from my end and I substantiated with the following reasons. 

First of all , any disciplinary action is always a well thought out and progressive process.  Second, as a leader and manager, though we should be empathetic towards the team, we should be able to clearly separate the heart from the head. I know, I know .... it is easier said than done, however that is how it is.
Third and very important, it would set a bad precedent in the organization and denigrate its culture.

There is a thin "line" between Discipline and  Learning.  

Literally . 

If you remove "line"  from the word and suffix it with an "e" , it becomes   "Disciple" !  From our childhood, we have linked discipline mainly with school  where we gather knowledge as well as learn discipline.  And it is so very important to allow for discipline at Work

At work, we deal with people and not androids. And people will always falter, some more , some less .  We will be sometimes late for office, violate company rules etc.  And this is where discipline come in. 

In most of the organizations, the disciplinary action progression goes like this :
  1. Informal warning
  2. Written warning
  3. Suspension
  4. Termination
Suspension and termination are very formal but for the warnings , the following are the guidelines :

  • The verbal , informal warnings should be done as soon as the indiscipline is noticed. The timing is important, since the reprimand loses its sheen with time.
  • Hold on to your words if you are angry. You should be in control of the yourself as well as the situation.  Sarcasm is also a strict "No-no".
  • Talk about the "What" and not the "Who"
  • Open your ears. Listen attentively with an open mind and heart. 
  • State the problem clearly and let him know the expectation. Provide constructive criticism.
  • Ask the employee what he thinks about the problem and how it can be solved. In most of the cases, the solution comes from him and he then takes complete responsibility and ownership of the same.
  • At the end, use positivity.  If needed , comment on a few accomplishments achieved by him and how you are sure that he would improve
Last , but not at all the least, if at the end of the interview you think the employee is remorseful and realizes his mistake, the manager can go all out and give him assurance and gain his trust.  

But ... again ... be careful .. you have to be a good judge to do so.  

Personally, I think that the best situation in an organization is to have highly motivated teams who can self monitor. 

This is the ideal scenario where whenever any infraction occurs, the team member is warned verbally by the leader. In the second instance,  the employee is asked to affirm that the offence will not recur.  The person is asked to take a day off and decide whether he will be able to keep his word or not and decide whether he wants to continue in the organization.

In this Utopian situation, the reprimand process becomes redundant since everyone in the team have their own goals and become self controllers. 

Discipline begins when we take action to correct the situation. And while doing so, we learn and grow. 

Cheers !

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