Importance of Maintaining Discipline at Work

Discipline is based on pride, on meticulous attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence. Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of the goal or the fear of failure.” – Gary Ryan Blair

The importance and criticality of a happy and energized workplace cannot be overstated. A vital part of making a workplace congenial is maintaining discipline in the work environment such that everyone is at peace and has equal opportunities to express themselves. We know that a workplace is made up of people from different backgrounds, upbringing and personality types. Some are more aggressive while others may be timid and at risk of being overshadowed by their more vocal co-workers. If the management does not emphasize equality and does not take measures in maintaining discipline, the workplace could be tough for some to work at, which in turn could adversely affect progress, productivity and long-term success for the individuals and a company as a whole.

In most companies, maintaining discipline and enforcing the guidelines and protocols set by the company is the job of the human resource team. This is so because the human resource function is typically responsible for ensure a safe, happy and congenial work environment and any deviations are also handled by them. Maintaining discipline and ensuring that employees are aware of the rules and guidelines of the company must be done at the hiring stage. Employees come from diverse backgrounds and bring with them myriad experiences – while these are great for getting in varied skills, this diversity could also be a cause of conflict. It is here, that maintaining discipline and respect for each person becomes absolutely essential. Even in our personal lives, we teach children and guide them according to some values and rules – same is the case with workplace discipline. It is about educating and coaching employees on the company’s policies and also makes known the punitive measures that would be taken if warnings are not heeded and maintaining discipline is being challenged by one or many employees.

Maintaining discipline in a workplace is quite a tough job – you are dealing with adults, experienced, skilled and proud in the knowledge that they know enough to be seated in the positions they are in. Maintaining discipline and enforcing corrective measures becomes tougher at the more senior levels, but a company that is focused on providing an equal and fair workplace, will ensure that everyone is subject to the same rules and will be dealt with the same corrective measures. Not maintaining uniformity in the disciplinary measures across the organization would lead to disillusionment and distrust and would make employees leave the organization – and we have already discussed at length the repercussions of exiting employees and the confusion it creates.

To ensure that maintaining discipline is seen as a balanced and well-implemented process, many companies put together a disciplinary committee whose main responsibility is the investigation of indiscipline and divergent behaviour. It is only after a proper investigation has been done that disciplinary measures – ranging from warning to termination – should be enforced. Wrongful action and dismissal could prove costly and litigious for a company.

A company that has fair practices and has an open work environment, is trustworthy and treats its employees well will not find the task of maintaining discipline hard. Such companies would regularly recognize and reward exemplary behaviour creating opportunities for positive reinforcement, thereby encouraging and maintaining discipline without continually being worried about it. Each person within the organization would take it on themselves to remain disciplined and follow the rules and guidelines set down by the company.

Companies use a variety of ways to boost discipline – from disciplinary committees, to programs that reinforce discipline, training programs and even guest lectures from renowned people on the benefits of maintaining discipline in the workplace and the repercussions of not doing so. Companies can also look at forming small ‘discussion and employee grievance groups’ consisting of employees from various departments and levels. This group could send out emails to employees asking them for suggestions and also hold bi-monthly meetings to address the suggestions, feedback and grievances expressed by their co-workers. Employees get a chance to voice their nagging problems in an informal and non-threatening environment. Rather than gossip and get wrong advice from others, they would receive sound advice and a promise that their problems would be taken up with HR and the management team.

As with most culture behaviours, maintaining discipline is also a factor of employees emulating their leadership. The company’s management must serve as role models and be seen as highly trustworthy, disciplined and with high integrity. With such good examples to follow, employees tend to be more likely to follow the rules and guidelines set out by the company, making discipline a part of the culture.

A number of companies have a clear, well-articulated and written code of conduct which they ensure are seen by the employees as soon as they are recruited. This code of conduct clearly states what the company considers acceptable conduct and behaviour and what constitutes behaviours and actions that stand in the way of maintaining discipline and office decorum. This code of conduct also clearly spells out the punitive actions that would be taken in the event that any divergent behaviour is consistently noticed. With a clearly laid out code of conduct employees have no reason or excuse to not follow the company’s guidelines. In maintaining discipline, there could be some instances where violations are not as severe and in some cases the violations could be grounds for immediate termination of employment. Companies must ensure that employees read, understand and sign this code of conduct, so that the company is not liable to lawsuits or other controversies if an errant employee is dismissed.

We discussed earlier that an open and encouraging work environment is also a must for maintaining discipline. When employees an empowered to report any breach in conduct or breach in discipline, they would be more willing to work with the company in maintaining discipline. They should be encouraged to report such ‘adverse behaviour’ immediately, even if it is the behaviour of their direct manager or some other senior person. Anonymous complaints should not be encouraged, as there is a potential of misuse – someone could lodge a false complaint against a co-worker or manager simply because they don’t get along and or are trying to take revenge. Even if nothing is proved against the person, their reputation and image would be tarnished to some extent and also would be cause of stress for them during the time of the ‘investigation’. If a complaint proves to be legitimate, the employee who pointed out the inadequacy must be recognized and applauded for their efforts. Such positive reinforcement will encourage every employee to take a stand as and when required.

Maintaining discipline is not a one-off responsibility or job. It is an on-going process and starts with each individual understanding their responsibility, as an adult and part of a professional environment, towards maintaining discipline. The leaders and HR can only make the policies and do their best to lead by example, however, the onus of being disciplined and creating a healthy workplace is the responsibility of each individual. Maintaining discipline, we believe, is more a process than an end goal. It helps people to improve, feel safe and secure in the office and work towards attaining their own goals and that of the company’s without being stressed or worried. It is the responsibility of the leadership and HR to provide continuous feedback to employees – this could come in the form of public applause for an employees or many employees who take steps towards maintaining discipline and also private feedback to each employee that disrupts the peace and discipline of the work environment.

Maintaining discipline in a company is required to mould the individual behaviors in a way that would be congenial for all and is the responsibility of everyone working in the company.

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