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Employee Discipline in HRM: Need or Importance, Problems, Guidelines, Actions

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What is Employee Discipline in HRM?

The acceptable behavior to be followed by an employee in and outside the organization is known as employee discipline. In general sense, following the direction of upper level supervisor or manager, making effort for the organizational goal attainment and playing the positive role in making healthy, competitive and dedicated environment in the organization is considered as maintaining the discipline. Discipline reflects the inside and outside organizational behavior of an employee. Employee's behavior directly affects the productivity and effectiveness of organization. In this way employees discipline plays an important role in making the organization as a successful or failure organization.

Discipline is understood in different ways in different situations. It is also understood as an attitude of mind, result of environment and custom, necessity driven change, legal assumption and ethical base. It motivates an employee to accept and accredit the tradition, value and assumption of an organization. Discipline is a positive thought towards the organizational environment and work life. Discipline can save organization from possible negative effect that may arise due to strike, low productivity, internal and external environment.

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Generally, there are two concepts found regarding employee discipline as positive concept and negative concept. In positive concept, employee willingly motivate to accept organizational rules, regulations and process. This concept aids to maintain positive thought in an employee through skilled leadership, effective motivation and supervision. Punishment is not included as a disciplinary action in this concept. According to the negative concept, employees have to be pressurized to make them follow the policy, rules and processes because they don't incorporate these things willingly. Thus they have to communicated and warned about it to make them follow the discipline. If required, they have to be punished.

For our purpose, the set of minimum work standard, policy, rules, process, work environment and acceptable behavior for the attainment of organizational goal is known as employee discipline. In this situation, employees must heartily and willingly accept the direction of supervisor or manager. Employees are motivated to accept the established values, assumptions and organizational culture and tradition. When discipline is followed at high level, work can be performed even with less supervision. Discipline can be maintained in a positive and negative way. Skillful leadership, positive motivation, effective and participatory supervision create positive discipline whereas fear, coercion, punishment etc. create negative discipline.

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Needs or Importance of Employee Discipline in HRM:

It is impossible to attain the organizational goal without spiritual involvement of disciplined employees. Employees play an important role by adopting the policy, rules, guidelines and process set by the organization. If employees maintain the discipline, there will be reduction in labor cost as a result of which organizational goal can easily be attained as it ensures the appropriate utilization of human resource. But, if they don't maintain the discipline, there can be conflict between employee-employee, employee-management and the situation may be worse with other aspects too. Likewise, problems like reduction in productivity, reduction in credibility, low performance level may prevail. By adopting discipline, organizational work environment can be facilitated. Main benefits of discipline are described as under:

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1. Good work condition:

Discipline should not be regarded only for lower level staffs. It has to be maintained at all levels. All employees and managers must respect and follow the guidelines of the discipline. It employees are disciplined, harmonious environment can be maintained in the organization. There can be trust, co-operation and respect among the employees. From this, good work environment can be maintained.

2. Standard job performance:

Disciplined employees are always aware of their job responsibility and authority. They are not involved in unnecessary activities. They initiate to cooperate for better performance. They are willing to implement appropriate process and ready to abandon useless processes. There will be significant reduction in employee's absenteeism. Employees follow self supervisory and self control mechanism. This will progress to optimally utilize resource and enhance work speed. As a result, it becomes possible to attain the job performance standard.

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3. Follow up of rules and regulation:

For the attainment of specific objective, all organizations formulate various rules and policies. To adopt these policies and directives, discipline is required. For this, they make rules, policies and directions for employees too. By following the disciplinary guidelines, organization can easily adopt the policy formulated by the country. By fulfilling this legal and social obligation, organization can perform its activities at no pressure condition from government or concerned authority.

4.Establishing good relation:

Discipline can help the organization to maintain good relation with external agencies and authorities. Attitude and behavior of disciplined employees can easily impress to other organizations and supervisory bodies. By maintaining good relationship with government, supplier, buyer, bank and financial institution, shareholder, consumer and society, etc. organization can ensure its growth, development and prosperity more efficiently and effectively.

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Problems Relating to Discipline:

Different disciplinary problems may arise in an organization because of employees at different situation and circumstances. Such problems may create serious problem to the organization. Managers should be careful to identify such problems at the right time and solve properly. Disciplinary problems can be classified as under:

1. Problems regarding attendance:

Attendance related problems are common problems in an organization. Under this problem, following are the major ones:
  • Absenteeism:
Employees remain absent in the organization without prior information or permission of management or concern person.
  • Late present at work:
To be present late than the reporting time without any genuine reason and prior information.
  • Early leaving job:
To leave the duty earlier than the ascertained time.
  • Slow at work:
To be lazy and careless and not completing the job in time intentionally.
  • Abuse of leave:
Taking unnecessary leave and taking leave in the day when it is important to be present.
  • Others:
To sign on the absent day, doing attendance on others name or make other absent, to leave own workplace and go on others place to disturb etc. are also considered as the attendance related problems.

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It requires processional promptness to address the attendance related problems. by checking attendance regularly and taking absenteeism record by supervisor, using card or sophisticated electronic machine instead of traditional attendance register an help to solve the attendance related problem. Such techniques are being common in modern organizations like multinational companies, bank and financial institutions, insurance companies etc. This problem can be solved for long term motivating the employees positively.

2. Problems regarding job behavior:

Employees behavior directly affects on organizational activities. Their behavior affects the organizational productivity and profitability. But sometime, employee's behaviors are unexpected, unsocial and unacceptable. Such unexpected and unsocial behaviors are also regarded as disciplinary problems. Following behaviors of employees are regarded as disciplinary problems:
  • Disobedience of order:
Disobeying the order of seniors.
  • Carelessness:
Not being sensitive about the job responsibility and misusing the resources.
  • Neglecting safety devices:
Not using the safety measures at workplace like not wearing helmet, gloves, gown, boot, sun glass etc., is also regarded as disciplinary problem.
  • Misconduct:
To misbehave with senior or junior, consumers, suppliers or any other outsiders.
  • Not reporting:
Not reporting about the accidents or unusual activities.
  • Misuse of resources:
Using purposelessly equipment and resources.
To manage problems regarding job related behavior, organization's act, policy, rules and actions must be enacted strongly. In order to solve such problems, appropriate reward and punishment system must be managed.

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3. Dishonesty related problem:

Honesty is the best ornament of the employees. An employee being unable to demonstrate honesty is an unethical activity. These activities adversely affect performance as well as image of the organization. Following problems are regarded as dishonesty related problem:
  • Stealing:
To steal goods, equipment and raw materials from organization.
  • Avoid work:
Not to bear responsibility and rejecting job.
  • Information falsification:
To give wrong information for fulfilling vested interest.
  • Fraud:
To deceive organization for monetary benefit.
  • Information leakage:
To provide confidential information and technology to the rival organization.
  • Others:
To provide employees for strike, to blame others unnecessarily, to misuse organizations property, backbiting about the organization etc.

Being careful is very necessary to reduce the problems related to dishonesty. Environment that enhances mutual trust and cooperation must be created. Making strict rules related to physical asset,s accounting system and other different aspects can help reducing this type of problem. Reward and punishment system must be enacted to make it more effective.

4. Problem related to outside activities:

Though employees perform their job inside the organization, their activities outside the organization also affect the organization. Such activities are more sensitive as they directly affect on organizational image. So, the employee's activities outside the organization are also kept within the scope of employee discipline. Following activities are considered as problems related to outside activities discipline:
  • Unauthorized strikes:
Attaining or organizing unauthorized activities like strike, vandalism against the country, government, society.
  • Spy:
Spying for competing organization, leaking confidential and sensitive information of the organization etc.
  • Misusing resources and assets of society.

The address such problems, brief study of social background of employees must be done at the time of recruitment and selection, social orientation programs have to be conducted, information of all employees has to be collected.

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General Guidelines in Administering Discipline in HRM:

Employee discipline directly affects the organization success. If the problem is not solved in time, it may create problem even in the existence of the organization. The best way is not to let the problem be aroused. However, if it arises, then it has to be solved or controlled in time. To eradicate the disciplinary problems, many managers believe in punishment and penalty. But to minimize or solve the problems, it is appropriate to consider the following guidelines;

1. Should be corrective:

Main objectives of disciplinary action must be to reduce the problem and improve the situation. While taking disciplinary actions, it must be guaranteed that employee's negative behavior and activities will be improved and not repeated in the future. For this, instead of punishing employees, they must be motivated to improve their attitude and behavior. Based upon the seriousness of the problem, disciplinary action has to be taken. Before taking final actions against the indiscipline, employees must get the chance for improvement. If it is necessary to take action, it must be carried out justifiably and wisely in an acceptable way. So, disciplinary actions should be corrective.

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2. Should be progressive:

Disciplinary action must be progressive. Disciplinary action must be taken step by step. First of all, they must be informed regarding their indiscipline orally. If this doesn't improve things, then written warning followed by suspension and demotion must be taken. And if these actions also do not work then, as a final action, dismissal can be done. Nature of the problem must be considered while taking action. Every problem must not be treated from a single view. Wimple action for minor problem and serious action for complex or major problem must be applied. If the disciplinary action impacts negatively it does not improve the attitude of employees. Instead, this may worsen the attitude of other employees also.

3. Should be immediate:

Disciplinary related action must be taken immediately. If these problems are taken for granted or actions are delayed, they repeat it frequently and behave more abnormally. If actions are taken promptly, they become alert of not repeating it. So, one should not be slow to initiate disciplinary action.

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4. Should be unbiased:

Disciplinary actions must be fair, justifiable and wise. Same actions must be taken for the same problem regardless of the employee's position, nearness and dearness as well as their influence in the management. If employees feel being discriminated in disciplinary actions, they may demonstrate negative attitude and behavior. Instead of improving, it will worsen the organizational situation. Thus, instead of looking at the person, one has to understand the depth of the problem while taking disciplinary actions. Actions should be inspired from 'hot stove approach'. Like the host stove that burns the hand of person immediately regardless the level of person, disciplinary action should have same and immediate impact the employees equally.

5. Should be effective:

Disciplinary action must be effective. Actions taken just for the sake of action cannot change the negative attitude and behavior of the employees. Manager must show initiation because the action is against the problem. Effectiveness must be assessed while initiating the disciplinary action. Assessing the effectiveness, it must be changed and improved. Employees must be pre-informed about the disciplinary action. Similarly, if action is taken against any problem to any person, it must be informed to all the employees within the organization.

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Disciplinary Actions in HRM:

Acceptable attitude and behavior of employees is known as employee discipline. Employee discipline has important role for the attainment of organizational goal. So, if there arises any disciplinary problem, action has to be taken promptly. Disciplinary action must be progressive. It involves step wise actions which must be focused for the improvement of negative activities, attitude and behavior. Effective, fair and promptly implementable action can only reduce the disciplinary problems. There are following six steps in disciplinary actions:

1. Oral warning:

When the disciplinary problem is see, first and foremost, oral warning must be given to the employees. This is the general type of disciplinary action. Employee must be warned individually. This is a general type of disciplinary action. Employee must be warned individually. This is a type of informal action. Following factors must be considered while giving oral warning:
  • Employees are to be informed about the rules they have broken. 
  • With a plan for improvement in employee's attitude and behavior, chance must be provided to defend them. 
  • They must be assured of assisting in the future, if they improve their attitude. 
  • The description of oral warning must be recorded in employee's personal file. 

2. Written warning:

If the attitude of employees is not improved after oral warning, written warning must be given. It is the first step of formal disciplinary action. Following tasks are done in this step:
  • Reason of the problem stating the situation not improved after the oral warning. 
  • Warning not to repeat indiscipline in the future. 
  • Possible action if similar indiscipline is repeated in the future. 
  • Giving chance to defend with a plan of improving them. 
  • Keeping a copy of written warning in employee's personal record file. 

3. Suspension:

If the employees are not improved even after the written warning, they are suspended from their job. It is a short term termination from the job. Considering the nature of the disciplinary problem employees can be suspended for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or more than that. Employees are not paid their salary for the suspension period. For the suspension, there must be noteworthy mistake. Following works are done in this step:
  • For suspension, written suspension notice for the ascertained period is given to the concern employees. 
  • Information regarding suspension is given to the notice board. 
  • The action paper about suspension is kept in the employees personal record file. 
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    4. Pay cut:

    If the same problem prevails even after the suspension, the productivity of employee has decreased she/he is creating an economic load to the organization, management decides to cut pay of the employee. Since its effect is long term, it is comparatively a harsh/ruthless disciplinary action. It is a monetary punishment. Though there is pay cut, the position of employee is not declined. If the employee improves work performance and attitude, she/he is paid again as previous pay level. Generally, there are three types of pay cut: stopping the grade, reducing minimum level salary scale, calculating the economic load of employee destroys and reducing it from the monthly salary.

    5. Demotion:

    If pay cut action doesn't improve the situation, then the employees are demotioned. In demotion, employees position is lowered by one level than the current position. Since, it is permanent by nature, it is sure that employee will be negative towards the organization. Therefore, it requires serious consideration before attempting to demotion. If the organization is sure of employee not quitting the job and not reducing the work performance, and the action does not adversely affect in long run, the action can be considered. Demotion not only minimizes the position but also reduces the salary and service facility. Therefore, there is high possibility of making employees negative towards the organization forever.

    6. Dismissal:

    Dismissal is also known as the termination of the employees from the organization. It will end the formal organizational relationship between employee and the organization. If employee are not improved from the above stated action or commits serious crime the, this action is taken. Generally, dismissal is done with two consideration as:
    • Employee is supposed to be eligible in the future
    • Supposed to be ineligible in future also. 
    In the case of the former situation, employees can again be selected from the free competition and can rejoin the organization whereas in the later case, there is no chance of the employee for rejoining the organization. Dismissed employees are blacklisted. 

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