An overview of effectiveness of enforcing discipline

This article has been written by Golock Chandra Sahoo and edited by Shashwat Kaushik.

The imposition of discipline often causes resentment among employees. This imposition is intended to encourage employees to perform their tasks sincerely, diligently and in a timely manner without creating any sort of bottleneck. It is the performance that always matters. No employer likes a shortfall in performance or willful non-performance without any genuine reasons. Discipline imposition is a kind of adoption of a technique for improving human performance. Thus, any act of such imposition is now treated as a means for developing personnel and entities for the future. Then what actually means discipline? “Discipline” is a sum total of two words “discipline” and “in”. That means a disciplined person is a disciple of a particular system who performs transparently with responsibility and accountability. S/he always submits to the system as an obedient protégé and with every deficiency and dis-obedience, the enforcement of discipline becomes a necessity. The Britannica Dictionary defines discipline as “a control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behaviour.” That means bad manners are anti-disciplinary and responsible for initiating punitive measures.

As per McGregor, discipline has four characteristics. He called it the “red-hot-stove- rule.” From this, it is understood that the red hot stove is equal to a set of rules, codes, conducts, etc. prescribed by the organisation. With every violation, the burn is immediate; one gets a warning. Everyone who touches the stove is burned, i.e., anybody who ever may be impersonal is punished for violating the rules/norms. So discipline is consistent. It is the measuring rod of organisational system/ culture/Climate. It is a kind of training that moulds and strengthens individual behaviour with due impartiality. It is also a force that guides and prompts an individual to observe certain rules and regulations that are considered necessary for the attainment of organisational objectives. This discipline conveys different meanings for students, for teachers, for employees, for employers, for technocrats and for workers. Again, the word means differently, while we adopt this in connection with business, institutions, home, family and the like. At some point, discipline may be mild, mediocre or strong, depending on the requirements of the situation.

There are different kinds of disciplines, viz., positive, negative, neutral, semi-positive and semi-negative. Positive discipline indicates a suo-motu willingness to work, and people work in a team with full cooperation and coordination with due cordiality to secure compliance with organisational norms and goals. Propagating positive discipline as a work culture helps organisations grow on all fronts. But on the other hand, negative discipline implies as enforcing discipline by resorting to some means of creating fear in the mind of employees, such as fear of suspension/discharge/loss of pay/demotion/transfer etc. The result of imposing such discipline is temporary and doesn’t last long. Over time, no such measures have worked to activate the demotivated employees. But neutral discipline is a form of discipline that has its roots in oneself. By tempting a person for self-development and by inducing a person to work without   interference, this discipline is generated. This has a lower positive effect. Yet, this discipline is for self-motivated people who don’t require any pressure to comply in any odd situation and who are accountable, responsible, and teachable. Semi-positive discipline is that discipline in which the boss applies moral pressure at times while permitting the employee to work in a holistic atmosphere. Only when it is needed, say at the time of the preparation of the budget, all have to work. No excuse is there to be away from such periodical, important assignments. Similarly, semi-negative disciplines imply some positive action by the employers on some particular occasion.

No particular type of discipline is adopt-worthy because the situations and circumstances of any organisation never remain constant. There is always a flexible turn. However, a regular application of disciplinary practises is a must for any organisation. No organisation can satisfy all its employees at every point in time. So certain employees may be observed to have a certain strain of lamentation and some particular theme of regular complaints, and every such grievance and complaint should be treated as an opportunity for positive action. Here are some selective tips for generating regular disciplines.

  1. There should be free communication from top to bottom and vice versa. Any erring employee should be explained as to what is wrong, what the prescribed standard is, and how an error can be better corrected. Any error detected and corrected should be widely circulated within the organisation. That may act as a guide for all.
  2. A boss should exercise his power in a normative fashion rather than in a remunerative or coercive manner. Organisational norms in every issue should be given prominence. All in the organisation should be well alerted as to the prevailing and adoptable norms. All newly recruited employees should be given training to be aware of the organisational thumb rules for adhering to the laws, rules and regulations.
  3. All personnel should be treated sympathetically with care and dignity. Employers/boss should have timely orientation for employee’s welfare. Every welfare measure should be reviewed from time to time to accept the requisite measure matching the advancement and development of the time in the interest of the mass of stakeholders for meeting the goals of the organisation.
  4. The initiation of discipline in any organisation should follow progression progression/ succession, starting from the very date of the employee’s joining. A culture should flow throughout the organisation. A passion for preparing a boy from his early childhood to become a man is, in reality, always with the parents. So an employer should gear-up the employees in like manner with care, love, wishes, and affection and should be part of the rise and fall of an employee on the path of growth of the organisation.
  5. While an action is proposed to be taken against an erring employee, an opportunity should be given so that the employee may explain the actual position. The explanation of the employee should be taken positively for an impartial judgement.  Any grievance redressal is a part of disciplinary action, and so any representation in reply by the erring employee paves a way for the organisation to march in proper spirit while taking up the grievances. Final action, in any case in favour of or against the employee, can be taken again with due intimation to the employee concerned.
  6. In many cases, failure to perform a job is due to poor or improper assignment. Tasks should be allotted based on the skills, training and interests of the employee. As far as possible, a specific training imparted to an employee shouldn’t be a mismatch with the allotted job. Discipline can only be generated when such job allotments are done judiciously on the basis of training imparted or for any other cause, such as experience in a previous job or expertise gained from technical education.

Discipline is a continuous process in emerging competitive scenarios everywhere. It may not be confined to the relationship between an employee and employer. We can take certain examples in this context. Devotees who stand in a queue to worship the deities in a temple may be covered under discipline, which saves precious time for many. Similar is the queue at the ticket booking counter in a railway station. Maintaining an environment to act on balancing the climate is also covered under discipline. The Sustainable Development Goal to be achieved as per government directives may include discipline in its ambit. Everywhere, imposition in proper perspective is an added advantage. Some sort of situation within the organisation where the imposition of employee discipline is an urgent necessity can be narrated as follows.

Stages where imposition is necessary are:

  1. Every job needs to be standardised in quantitative and qualitative terms, and the gap between the intended performance and actual performance is to be spotted. If the gap is greater than 50%, the job requires discipline for improvement after giving due opportunity to the job holder.
  2. If the conduct of an employee is found to be against organisational ethics, discipline can be enforced with immediate effect.
  3. An employee, at the stage of job satisfaction/job delight, is a source of disturbance for others because time saved by him/her after completing the allotted job within a short time due to expertise is utilised as such. Such employees are required to be disciplined by changing their job profile or by enriching their activities with some additional assignments.
  4. Habitual late attendance or habitual negligence in any case should attract quick enforcement of discipline.
  5. In-subordination, assault or threat to superior officers, making false complaint or complaint without adequate proof, tampering with official documents, misappropriation of government cash/ store or organisational property, engaging otherwise one-self during office hours, etc. are all acts of indiscipline for which enforcement of discipline is badly necessary. 

No organisation, position or person is powerful. It is a system that has been formulated that acts to generate discipline. If discipline is automatically generated, it has a very wide influence and far reaching effect on making an organisation more advanced. The organisation on the whole is the super-boss and all others are subordinates. Every position in the hierarchy is thus either a boss to many or subordinate to some. So, all should be disciplined by some means. But imposition should not be taken as a whim or power-show as no fear of punishment can remain forever. Rather, the employer & employee relationship settles everything without any pressure or strain. Love and mutual respect for each other act as motivation for performance. However, for discipline to be effective, it requires a free flow of communication from top to bottom and vice-versa. Penalties and punishments awarded in no case should differ. In all cases, discipline and disciplining should be taken up without any personal grudge and impositions should be made to the least possible extent.


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