Discipline may be described as the ways, means, and avenues or channels used by the managers of institutions, businesses or other corporations to identify, investigate and rectify or correct misconduct or infringements among its staff in order to ensure compliance to the laid down company rules and regulations. Discipline is critical in the work place; it makes an organization to be cohesive and better able to achieve its goals (Imundo 1993). Discipline can be thought of as observance of set rules that guides workplace conduct of employees. Because there must be cases of indiscipline in the organization, disciplinary mechanism must be set in place. These disciplinary mechanisms must be carefully designed to bring about a corrective effect to the culprit rather than a punishment.
Prior to embarking on any disciplinary measure, it’s always important for the managers to explore other non-disciplinary measures to solve the problems for example dialogue and counseling. However, the use of these methods should be limited to mild incidences of misconduct and should not be utilized to the detriment of the organization or company. Chronic or persistent misconduct must not be tolerated and the management should take the necessary disciplinary steps to rectify the behavior. The most commonly applied disciplinary measures include issuance of warning letters, suspension and termination of employment in extreme cases of indiscipline. This paper will discuss the moral and ethical issues faced by managers, their effect on other individuals, and ethically responsible management practices in ensuring discipline is maintained at workplace.
Moral and ethical issues facing management are diverse and typical of the diverse fields of management (Shaw 2004). These fields comprise of finance, accounting, human resource management, marketing, personalized marketing among others. Despite this categorization most ethical issues cut across a number of fields and it may be difficult to isolate them from each other. Ethical challenges facing managers in human resource and management are the most rampant and commonly found at the workplace (Gilliland, Steiner, & Skarlicki 2007). These moral and ethics challenges related to discipline at workplace include: (1) Absenteeism; this is where an employee does not report to duty or work without official authorization from the employer. This is a common phenomenon in modern corporate world and may take two different forms that are unintentional or non-deliberate absenteeism and censurable or blamable absenteeism. Non-deliberate absenteeism is said to have occurred when an employee desert from duty due to reasons beyond their control such as failing health or impairment. Censurable absenteeism is judged to have occurred when an employee absents himself or herself without authorization and for no concrete or plausible reasons e.g. an employee who feigns ailment and obtains a sick leave from work. If it is later proven that the employee feigned the sickness, the employee is guilty of blamable absenteeism.
The main dilemma for the managers in their quest to eradicate absenteeism is in determination of whether the employee is guilty of one form of absenteeism or the other (Gilliland et al 2007). Normally, non-deliberate absenteeism is usually solved by verbal and written counseling, job reshuffling and discharge from duty if absenteeism becomes chronic. It is considered unfair to take disciplinary measures in unintentional absenteeism as this may be interpreted as punishing someone for conduct which is beyond their control. In proven cases of censurable absenteeism, the managers should ensure that the laid down disciplinary procedures are followed so as not seen as applying unjustified punishment to the culprit. The disciplinary measures may include verbal warning that is talking to the culprit, written warnings, suspension from duty after consultations with the relevant authorities and in cases of chronic or persistent absenteeism the supervisory personnel may dismiss or terminate the employee from work. (2) Chronic tardiness; tardiness at workplace may be described as lateness or sluggishness in execution of duties for instance, lateness in reporting to work and giving flimsy excuses for it such as transport and traffic jam, inadequate sleep time, preparing children for school among others. Tardiness also includes failure to submit reports and other documents on time and failure to adhere to deadlines for no plausible reasons.
The repercussions for tardiness are varied from one company to the other and from one manager to the other depending on the effect on the company performance or productivity. Some of the strategies used by managers to curb chronic tardiness include counseling the employee on time management, verbal warning accompanied with disclosure to the employee of his or her tardiness trends, written warnings in persistent tardiness and dismissal as the last resort. In curbing tardiness the managers must be beyond reproach and should not be victims of the vice themselves as this would set a dangerous precedence among the workers and this will hamper their efforts in dealing firmly with tardiness.(3) Sexual harassment; the issues raises a lot of debate as to what consists of sexual harassment in the workplace per se but can be described collectively as actions of sexual nature which can directly or indirectly have a negative impact in an individual’s execution of duties. These actions include; non-consented body contact such as touching a coworker, conversations of sexual nature, display of erotic or sexually inclined pictures or objects among others. Dealing with sexual harassment at workplace is an uphill task and managers should exercise extreme caution when determining what constitutes of an act of sexual harassment in different organization. The problem is even harder to curb because in most cases it involves sexual harassment of junior workers by the senior personnel. The managers need to have a clear and a well defined sexual harassment policy explaining what constitutes of sexual harassment and the consequences (Gilliland et al 2007)
Other forms of indiscipline that are prevalent in the workplace include; employee insubordination or unruliness, the use of abusive or obscene language, neglect of company code of regulations relating to safety for example use safety gadgets, dishonesty und untrustworthiness of the workers, and various forms of theft from the organizations resources or premises by the employees. Managers themselves must be free of all forms of indiscipline (Imundo 1993); there are cases where managers themselves are involved in dishonest acts such as fiddling with accounts to overstate company profits. In a company I had worked for over the school holidays, all forms of dishonesty were strictly prohibited and managers made sure that such cases were dealt with. One of the managers used to collect cash from the accounts office as a reimbursement for client entertainment but one employee used to see him in a hotel with in company of his friend and not clients. The dilemma was, should the employee report that manager to more senior managers. There were some employees under that manager who had lost their jobs over actions dishonesty with company’s cash. The manager’s actions were clearly against the company’s code of ethics and due to his position; it would not be possible for him deal with cases of cash theft from the employees.
Discipline at work place is of paramount importance in any organization and the managers have an obligation of demonstrating a high level of discretion in their quest of ensuring efficient and smooth running of an organization (Imundo 1993). There is a need for an organization to have a clear disciplinary policy with a clear and a justified procedure for dealing with indiscipline (Gilliland et al 2007). The policy should provide for an investigative stage where the validity of the misconduct is ascertained and discipline stage where a disciplinary action is executed. When taking disciplinary action on an employee the managers should put into account some factors for instance the duration of service of the employee, the employees comprehension of the infringed policy, previous work record of the culprit, the motive of the employee in engaging the vice, and the weight and effect of the offence to the company’s rules. The managers should also consider the legal options which are available to the worker including the labor laws so as not to infringe on the civil rights of the worker and risk being sued.
Gilliland, S., Steiner, D.D., Skarlicki, D. (2007) Managing social and ethical issues in organizations: Research in social issues in management. Vancouver: IAP
Imundo, L.V., (1993) Effective Supervisor's Handbook. (2nd Ed.) New York. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
Shaw, H.W., (2004) Business ethics. (5th ed). Belmont. CA: Thomson/Wadsworth