Employee Discipline: Which Staff?

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Employee discipline is common in organizations where there is a significant number of jobs that are mundane and physical; such as jobs in the factory, logistics, hospitality, food and beverage industries.

This article gives a broad view of employee discipline. Sometimes, the good performer may need to be discipline. At other time, management staff needs to be disciplined.

Categorize Employees by Individual Performances

At any one time in a sizeable organization, it would have employees that perform under different areas of the bell curve. For ease of understanding, let us assume that we are using the 5 ratings scale found in traditional performance appraisal form.

The 5 ratings are:

5 – Exceptional (excellent)

4 – Exceeds expectations (good)

3- Meet expectations (average or satisfactory)

2 – Below Expectations

1 – Unacceptable performance

Which Employees Are Excluded?

Those that are given a rating of 5 (exceptional) are probably those that are ready for the next job level. They could be a result of wrong hire. Those who are given a rating of 4 (exceeds expectations) are the star performers.

There is a need to separate employees who consistently perform at a high level versus those that perform in spurs.

It is not for those for those that have no hopes. These are the ones with a performance rating scale of 1 point (unacceptable).

Those that have no hopes are:

  • Toxic workers
  • Workers that committed gross misconducts
  • Employees that stop reporting for work the next day
  • Employees that are the wrong fit for the job or they have no interest or lost their interest in the job
  • Employees that are better off working for themselves

Character Building

As part of an organization’s effort to build a conducive work environment, it is important to educate employees to be aware of, identify and reject toxic behaviors.

Who is Staff Discipline For?

They are for employees that you can rescue. It is for staff that is rated 2 (below expectations) and not 1 (the lowest).

Performance Ratings

Source: 7 Geese

Bell Curve in Performance

Source: Compensation Cafe

Who Is Responsible for Employee Discipline

Dealing with poor performers is the manager’s job. That is what he or she is hired for. He or she works with those that reports to him or her, and so know their behaviors and work performance best.

A lot of people in position of authority like to be the nice guy and not the bad guy. Thus, everybody, including top management likes to push the dirty job to the HR Department.

Employees Performing Below Expectations

The manager’s objective is to turn a performer with a rating of 2 into one with a rating of 3.

Poor performers that are given a rating of 2 fall into 2 broad categories:

Category 1: Situations where the manager only needs to enable the person so that they can perform at level 3 are:

  • The person is not given the support that he or she requires.
  • The person is not given the right tools and ample resources to do the job.
  • The expectations were unrealistic.
  • The person is not given the appropriate training.
  • The person is allocated to a job that he or she is not suitable (unable to handle the tasks to the satisfactorily level expected).

Where the person is allocated to a job that he or she is not suitable, the Manager has to relook all the tasks carried out by the team and redistribute the work. Along with this, it becomes necessary to re-evaluate jobs and pay.

Category 2: Situations where enabling actions has been taken but the staff continues with a performance rating of 2 for a pre-determined of time, he or she is then tagged to undergo a performance improvement plan.

Moving from Performance Management to Individual Development

Many companies are moving away from traditional annual appraisals. An example is Medtronic Inc.

Rather than scraping the traditional performance appraisal system and use a “start, stop and continue” model, managers should hold coaching sessions so that their subordinates can be successful. The “start, stop and continue” model encourages employees and managers to talk about what the employees should start doing, what they should stop, and what they should continue is still a back facing system, like the traditional performance review.

In Medtronic Inc., to achieve better business results, the manager-staff discussions focus on individual strengths and areas for development. Managers become coaches who support employees to achieve their objectives and to pursue their individual career development. Performance coaching sessions are no longer about managers giving a rating on past behaviors; they are about improving on future ones.

The process allows for quarterly feedback and goal setting between managers and employees. Employees are encouraged and coached on creating objectives that are aligned with critical business activities. This approach is closer to manager being a teacher

Medtronic also adds a recognition program called “eMpower” to drive 3 key elements of employee engagement: fostering participation, recognizing performance, and maximizing employee potential.

Even in such circumstances, staff discipline is still relevant.


Eliminating Performance Ratings: Learn How Medtronic Did It



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