I'm Going to Write You Up
As with most business processes – especially with regard to Human Resources practices, different people have different ideas on how to document poor performance. There are many management types out there and some of which are explained below:
This is the person who has taken the business mantra of the disciplinary process, "Document, Document, Document" to an extreme by "writing up" every mistake made by every employee. Two minutes late – you get a "write up"; make a data entry error – "write up." Sneeze during a meeting – "write up."
The thought is that this is the best way to ensure that the company is in a defensible position if and when that employee sues you for some sort of discrimination. After all, in today's litigious society, employers cannot be too careful. Right?
An ostrich allegedly sticks his head in the sand when things get tough thinking that if I can't see them, they can't see me. This is just another way of saying, "If I ignore it, it will go away". This works well, doesn't it?
This is a variation of the Jack Welch style of management when he was referred to as Neutron Jack. A Neutron bomb kills all the people, but leave the building intact. The Neutron Bomb wants to get rid of the whole workforce and start all over again. We have all had this idea from time to time, but the Neutron manager truly considers this a viable option. Huh?
This is that very patient person who does little to correct substandard work until reaching the point of no return. He or she just blows and goes BOOM – unable to take it anymore. Employees think the manager must be committed – immediately - and then they all run away.
OK we have all known or worked with those who are waaaaay too cutesy for most people. Instead of disciplining people, the cheerleader tries to motivate employees with inane saying like, "There's no 'I' in team." The Cheerleader also gets all of those motivational posters thinking that a picture of a wave breaking against the shore with the word, "Persistence" will make the employees work harder. What?
The cheerleader usually hires other cheerleaders. In most cases very little gets done on the Cheerleader's department. Unless, of course, you consider coming up with cutesy quips is considered progress. Fun stuff for all. It's enough to make you want to run away and live in a spider hole for the rest of your life.
Ask yourself these questions
- Do you find yourself "writing up" employees for every minor infraction?
- Are you too busy or too lazy to take the necessary time to offer coaching and counseling when the necessity becomes apparent?
- Have you gotten to the point that we are becoming more and more accepting of unsatisfactory performance because it is more trouble than it is worth?
- Do employees roll their eyes when you speak to them?
Does Discipline Work?
It is our belief that, with few exceptions, discipline does not work. It is also our belief that it is a must when coaching, counseling and other means do not change the performance or behavior to what is expected. If formal discipline is not conducted AND documented, there is no proof that an employer gave an underperforming employee an opportunity to improve.
Documentation is Crucial
Even though we say that discipline does not work, it is extremely important. In the event of an unemployment claim or worse, documenting the fact that you gave an employee a warning informing the person to shape up or they will be shipped out can be used as evidence in your favor.
Set Expectations and Standards
Setting clear expectations and work standards sets the foundation for effectively managing employees. Then all you have to do is think of two things – What is Happening vs. What is Expected. If there is a gap, discipline is easy. All you need to do is state the facts in a professional and matter of fact way.
Just Do It Right
Discipline is one of those things that can backfire in your face if not done correctly. Make sure you have all the facts. Never use the words of others to mete out discipline or blame the disciple on what others have said to you in passing. Do your homework and get the true story.
Never use the phrase "bad attitude." In fact, never use the word attitude when disciplining anyone. "Attitude" is not specific. In our world, a bad attitude usually manifests itself in more measurable or observable behavior such as excessive lateness or being rude to customers. Discipline based on facts – not non-descript words whose meaning can be interpreted differently by different people.
Stop The Madness
So stop killing trees, sticking your head in the sand, dropping bombs that only kill people, blowing up when your fuse is spent or trying to motivate people by being too chirpy. Stick with the expectations and facts.
Discipline is one of the most important things a manager must do. Unfortunately, it is not often done well. It must be fair and consistent and based on expectations and standards of performance.
As stated earlier – Just Do It Right.