Does Your Discipline Process Work? (Part 2)

October 26, 2011 -- Sal Silvester

In part 1 of this series, I presented some assumptions about how the positive discipline process should work. With this new set of assumptions, you'll replace your out-dated, old-school policies of "threats," "warnings," and "ultimatims" that create compliance instead of commitment.

The challenge, however, is that in many organizations leaders don't have the training to effectively negotiate the discipline process. As a result, they make the following mistakes that very rarely result in behavioral change from the team member involved.

MISTAKE 1: Surprising a team member with discipline before receiving formal feedback. This happens all too often in the workplace where the manager skips over the feedback process (note that feedback is a separate process from discipline) and goes directly to the discipline process. The manager typically issues a verbal or written "warning" and asks for the employee's signature, all without having had the courage to provide feedback first.

MISTAKE 2: Not involving the team member in the process. All too often, the discipline process is a one-way rant from the manager to the team member. How committed would you be to change if you had no "say." With little involvement in the process, the employee will be more likely to change organizations or managers instead of changing his or her behavior.

MISTAKE 3: Not communicating the process to the team member. Often times the disciplinary process happens and the manager fails to communicate what the process is to begin with. Even worse, the manager avoids letting the team member know that the conversation is a disciplinary conversation. It is critical that organizations and managers be transparent about the process otherwise team members won't believe that the process is designed to help them succeed.

MISTAKE 4: Over-reliance on Human Resources (HR). The challenge in many organizations is that managers don't take responsibility for providing feedback to the employee directly. They toss it over the wall to HR. That's not leadership. HR should be available to provide guidance to the manager and support the proess. But, the manager has ultimate responsibility for making sure the positive discipline process happens.

MISTAKE 5: Failing to document the process. Every step of the discipline process should be documented, from the verbal counseling to the written reminder, to the Decision Day Leave process (more on this in part 3). Documentation is the first line of defense an organization has in a wrongful termination suit.

These are just a few of the common and costly mistakes managers make in the discipline process. What mistakes do you see in your organization that you would like changed?

Stay tuned for part 3 where I'll discuss the 3 phases of the discipline continuum. You won't want to miss it.

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