Disciplinary Procedures Suggested by Business Management Experts

Disciplinary Procedures Suggested by Business Management Experts

If you run a business, sooner or later you will have to discipline your employees. It's often one of the hardest chores an owner or manager has. For one thing, nobody wants to be seen as a "bad guy." Discipline also forces you to put on your "authority" hat; most people in the kitchen and bath industry seem to enjoy informality more.

So why discipline employees? First of all, because you need to get basic tasks done efficiently, fairly, and at a profit. Secondly, allowing disruptive or non-productive actions by an employee penalizes other employees and encourages them to act inappropriately.
As a manager, you make decisions every day. If you overlook actions that call for discipline, you've actually made a very poor decision. You are, in effect, sanctioning unacceptable performance.

According to business management experts, many people mistake discipline for "punishment." It is not. Discipline is aimed at changing unacceptable behavior.

Discipline also has nothing to do with mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. Measuring a kitchen incorrectly, for example, is not a discipline problem, but an error.

By discipline problems, management specialists mean problems like taking two hours for lunch instead of one, coming to work late, taking coffee breaks too frequently, being excessively absent, talking to other employees rather than working, being rude to a client, and the like.

The place to start addressing these is with information. It's vital that employees know exactly what's expected of them. If lunch has not been defined as "one hour," a manager can't blame an employee for taking more time than that. If there's no formal starting time, then nobody is ever late.

If you haven't given every employee an idea of how you want them to behave in writing, it's a good idea to have a formal meeting of your employees to set guidelines. Here are some suggestions on how to handle it, according to business specialists.

  • Start off by stating that you would like to establish some guidelines on various issues. Then explain briefly and clearly the behavioral changes you would like to see.
  • Do not make the meeting personal or confrontational. It's not, "Tom, if you leave early again you'll be sorry." It's "I'd like every employee to be here from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., unless excused."
  • Do not have a debate. If employees have objections, listen courteously and promise to consider them. If the objections seem reasonable, change the policy.
  • The new policies must be applied fairly and evenhandedly. That can be especially difficult in the kind of family businesses that are typical among kitchen and bath dealerships. Family members in a family business tend to take special privileges as a matter of course. Furthermore, non-family employees tend to feel they are permanently out of favor, and thus justified in getting away with whatever they can.

    Family members must understand that they must obey rules more stringently than non-family employees for the overall good of the business. If they cannot grasp that, perhaps they should not be involved in the business.
  • If problems persist, talk to the problem employee, and explain what's wrong and what changes must occur. Again, do not turn this into a personal attack or confrontation. Be calm and dispassionate. Focus on the expected results.
  • If the employee does not improve, speak to him again. This time, have two copies of a written statement listing what changes in behavior you expect to see. Have him sign both copies. Keep one for your records and give him the other. Make sure the employee agrees to change his behavior and can repeat the reason why he should. If he does not see any reason to change the behavior, he won't. He must at least understand what is expected and why.