If you manage employees, situations will arise when you need to discipline a team member. Successfully addressing these situations can result in improved performance from that employee and a boost in overall team morale. Disciplining incorrectly can destroy the trust you’ve built with your team and create more problems than it solves. Consequently, mastering effective disciplinary techniques is an essential management skill.
If you run a business, if you are responsible for a lot of people, you come to grips with the reality that you have to have discipline. You have to protect the enterprise in order to take care of the employees. So, therefore, you can’t be wasteful. You can’t squander things, or you jeopardize other people.Steve Wynn
The Goal of Discipline
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines discipline as control gained by enforcing obedience or order; orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; self-control. The image that leaps to many people’s minds, punishment, is a secondary definition.
This definition embodies the healthy approach to discipline. The initial goal is to restore order, but the process doesn’t stop there! To be truly effective, discipline needs to explain the standards of behavior expected and then help employees internalize those expectations.
Successful people have specific traits that set them apart. One of these is self-discipline. We usually learn what it means to be corrected and how to respond to it at an early age. Unfortunately, not every child has a positive discipline experience. It’s important to remember this fact, as we deal with employees.
How to Discipline Effectively
So, what are the key things to remember about effective discipline? First, you don’t want to appear angry, but rather matter-of-fact. Acting in a threatening way rarely evokes a positive response. We aren’t trying to scare a team member into changing their actions. We want to influence them in a positive way.
Speak to them in a normal tone of voice so they don’t feel attacked. Talking to them on an equal basis rather than talking down to them helps too. If you think someone is trying to talk down to you or is angry, it raises your defenses. This sets the tone for a less-than-positive conversation.
Second, let them know why there’s a problem with the way they are acting. If you don’t explain something, how are they going to change? Make sure that you let them know how much you value the hard work they do and that you are there to help. Be sure to let the employee talk about why they are acting a certain way. This not only helps you to see the entire picture but can reveal deeper issues that also need to be addressed.
Third, let them shadow a colleague who has the desired behavioral skills in the problem area. The mentee may not become a model employee themselves, but at least they can get a clearer idea of the type of behavior you expect from them. Throughout the process, encourage them to be the best at what they do and practice self-discipline in their lives.
Another Resource for Effective Discipline
These are just a few helpful ways to discipline employees correctly. Another excellent resource for a positive approach to improving behavior is Kenneth Blanchard’s Whale Done. We’ve used this approach here at ILSA for many years with outstanding results!