Is your workplace in need of increased efficiency, productivity and prosperity? There are many vital tools that must be in use to make this happen, and one of those tools, believe it or not, lies in having a disciplined and orderly system. And what exactly do I mean by that? Let me give you an example to illustrate it clearly.
Let’s take a look at a quite successful company during the morning of a regular day at work. The big clock in reception ticks to signify the start of the business day. However, some of the employees are still ambling toward their desks. An executive, out of frustration, looks back and forth between the ticking clock and these slow-moving employees. He is tired of constantly having to hurry them up, but he also hasn’t acknowledged the lack of discipline that is eating up the company like rust eats up metal and how this affects not only his but every employee’s paycheck. Intuitively, the executive knows that he has to somehow bring his staff to their senses and accelerate operations. But what’s the point in doing so if, after this shake-up, these employees will quickly revert back to what they consider “normal”? It’s a run-of-the-mill, annoying problem. But whose fault is it and what to do about it?
The first thought one gets when they’re in this situation is, there must be something wrong with these people. They get distracted, don’t want to work; they’re interested in other things and/or hate the rules. However, from past experience, the owner or executive has seen the same workers step up during emergencies—working overtime, actively showing initiative or expressing extra creativity on the job. Therefore, the cause of slow pacing doesn’t lie in the staff, but somewhere else. In fact, it lies in the actions of the executive. Take note: The problem doesn’t lie in the executive’s personal qualities and talents, but in the actions he or she is taking.
This situation operates similarly to rust: It begins with a little spot that goes unnoticed and unhandled; then one day, seemingly without warning, the whole thing falls apart. It can begin quite innocuously—an employee doesn’t complete a simple assignment, and no one says anything. As time continues, noncompliance with orders or assignments becomes a habit. Other employees see what the noncompliant employee is getting away with and believe that this is a new “normal.” And that’s exactly how a lackadaisical “corporate culture” is born. Unlike the corporate culture that is idealized in the company handbooks, the one experienced leaves much to be desired. In the real world, despite all common sense and intentions of the executive, the employees have been permitted to ignore the rules and expectations.
It is possible to solve this problem of seemingly disinterested employees flouting the company’s expectations, but it will require two things. The first is the desire of the executive to want to solve the problem.
Once the desire to fix things has been handled, it’s time to move on to the second part—the Scale of Discipline. L. Ron Hubbard said in his article entitled OFFENSES AND PENALTIES: “Lack of specified offenses, penalties and recourse brings everyone to uncertainty and risk at the whim of those in command.”
Thus the need of a Scale of Discipline (based on the Hubbard Administrative Technology), which is a precise sequence of disciplinary actions that have to be applied without fail to any staff when he/she violates a rule, order, etc.
The idea is that upon any rule violation, the employee is corrected by a certain action. If he or she continues to violate that same rule, the discipline increases; and so it goes, step by step. The first step of the scale is “show dissatisfaction” with the employee, and the last step is dismissal. Between those two points there are many intermediate levels. It is funny to note that ordinarily executives use only the first and the last steps of the scale, which doesn’t lead to true discipline but to a perpetuation of the rule violations. Or they start to “push” too much. Both of these patterns are destructive.
Let’s use an example of tardiness. A staff member is late for work; the executive only rumbles with displeasure. The staff member is late again, and the executive responds with more rumbles. This goes on for months, until the executive, finally, runs out of patience and fires the person. Sound familiar? Of course, because it’s happened in offices around the world where it seems the executive just snaps and turns into an irrational, crazy person. A correct approach would be to gradually increase the discipline, applying the exact amount of corrective force in order to stop the violation, and not putting too much pressure on the person, as that could be destructive. The discipline has to increase step by step with every violation.
For instance, levels of the scale could be as follows:
Let’s say that Joe is late for work for the first time, and the executive only looks at him with disapproval. It is remarkable that for most people this would be the proper amount of discipline in order for Joe to stop being late. But in this case, Joe is late again, and the executive comes over to him and says, “I don’t appreciate your being late two times in a row. I don’t want to see this again!” Most employees would immediately change their behavior after this remark. But Joe is late yet again, and the executive sends him a memo that tells him, “Your actions are harming this company. If you continue arriving late for work, there will be consequences!” With this approach, you will very soon discover that an executive doesn’t have to use the most severe of the steps because the first levels of discipline are already providing great results.
We could say that the necessity for strict discipline comes when an executive does not apply the scale. She was simply “looking the other way” and letting violations go unhandled until they became so destructive that only extraordinary measures could solve them. In reality, the executive caused the problems herself by not using discipline at the outset when the policy violation was first noted.
Naturally, in order to apply this in real life, one needs to work out his or her own scale that would correspond to specifics of one’s company, and the local laws governing the handling of employees as well. But working out a scale is only half of the job. The second half is to make sure that this scale is applied in every case without fail, keeping in mind that one must be rational so that the discipline is in keeping with the infraction. If an employee is caught stealing, for example, it would not be improper to let the person go on the spot. One need not use this type of “progressive discipline” when clearly the employee’s intentions are counter to that of the company. However, where there is something that the employee could be expected to improve, this scale can be helpful.
Additionally, if an employee keeps doing “new” things, one need not necessarily keep starting again at the first discipline step of the scale. Be logical about it—a number of “small” infractions could be just as bad as one “large” one, indicating an employee who is not a team player, is not improving, and should be let go.
I recommend using a rule with executives who tend not to properly manage the performance of their employees: If an executive does not apply the correct level of discipline to his or her junior, this level of discipline should be applied to the executive. This is simple and logical. For example, if Sam, a line manager, does not rebuke his junior, his executive should rebuke Sam for not doing so.
Just think how your company would change if the scale were created, implemented and published in the company’s employee handbook, being sure to note that the company has discretion to deviate from the scale in the appropriate circumstances. It is quite simple to do, and it will really fix discipline in your company and help you achieve success.
By Alexander Visotsky
Alexander Visotsky is a celebrated author of business management books and the CEO of Visotsky Consulting, a successful WISE-licensed consulting firm in the Ukraine. As tough as his native Siberia, Visotsky is making a significant cultural impact in Russia, Ukraine and the US through the implementation of the Hubbard Administrative Technology.
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