TAKING DISCIPLINARY ACTION: A Few Basics To Remember, Part 4

TAKING DISCIPLINARY ACTION: A Few Basics To Remember, Part 4

Continuing our exploration of the popular opinion of sanctions in the workplace, we’ll discuss the relevance of the severity of misconduct to the weight of the punishment.


The weight of disciplinary action is what gives it the compelling power to initiate change in the conduct of employees. Normally, a sanction would push an offender to consider self-correction because aside from its true purpose, which is to nurture a sense of professional responsibility, it presents the added incentive of avoiding future consequences.

However, there are organizations that sanction their employees in an unnecessarily harsh manner. This occurs especially when disciplinary action is used as intimidation or power play, just to show that the one deciding on or giving the sanction is easily capable of doing such a thing.

Workplace politics ruins the proper implementation of disciplinary action at every stage, but it’s in the weight of the punishment that we see how ugly politics is. We see imbalance in the severity of the consequences an offender faces in return for minor or moderate violations of policy. It shows the worst that a self-serving authority can do to further personal goals or the objectives of a certain faction in the workplace.

Although not as prevalent, leaders with strict approaches to improving workplace conduct are also guilty of giving excessively harsh sanctions. In this case, the intention is justifiable. But, the methods are questionable in that they may not be effective in encouraging an offender to adjust their workplace behavior. Instead, the offender may feel undervalued as an employee and become demotivated to improve.

To be effective at encouraging conduct improvement, disciplinary action must make offenders feel that while their mistakes are not tolerated, they have the ability to stop making those mistakes in the future. This is the only adjustment that a strict leadership needs to make: sanction policy violators in such a way that they retain the motivation to improve their conduct.

The use of severe punishment as power play, however, involves more adjustments in order to be phased out. Stamping out this destructive culture will require an intensive review and revision of any disciplinary policies that enable the abuse of sanctions. It also requires everyone in the organization to have enough understanding of company disciplinary policies as well as relevant labor laws.

Making these adjustments will bring any organization closer to a more constructive disciplinary culture that will ultimately benefit all members, whether they are part of the rank-and-file or top management.

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