As a manager or supervisor, managing people is one of the most critical skills you can possess. Effective management can enhance work morale, prevent legal issues, and foster a productive work environment. Managing people involves a variety of tasks, such as providing tools for disciplining problematic employees, differentiating between performance issues and disciplinary issues, and ensuring consistency in the application of disciplinary measures.

Discipline is an essential part of employee management. It is defined as training or developing through instruction and exercise, especially in self-control. At the same time, it is an action taken by management in response to an employee violating rules, policies, procedures, laws, or commonly accepted behavior. The purpose of discipline is to correct problems, punish bad behavior, and improve morale with consistency.

It is crucial to understand the difference between disciplinary matters and performance issues. Performance problems can arise from a lack of knowledge, ability, work habits, or inability to perform. These issues require corrective actions. On the other hand, disciplinary matters involve violating rules, policies, procedures, laws, or commonly accepted behavior. These issues require disciplinary measures to be directed at decreasing problematic behavior or actions.

Disciplinary matters include a range of conduct such as reporting to work intoxicated, lying, isolated tardiness without calling in, and unexcused absences. In contrast, performance issues are about not performing as expected. Examples of performance issues include sloppy work, inattention to detail, incomplete or inaccurate research, or preparation. When addressing performance issues, the focus should be on encouraging growth. However, when dealing with disciplinary matters, the focus should be on discouraging negative behavior.

When deciding on appropriate remedy or action, it is essential to consider the nature and seriousness of the offense, mitigating circumstances, past record of discipline, prior notice of rule, common sense, effect on employee morale, effect on company profile, and effect on your confidence in the employee. In addition, progressive discipline can be an important tool as it provides the opportunity to document problems, shows the employer attempted to correct the problem, and gives the employee the opportunity to correct the issue before more serious action is taken. Some conduct, however, may require immediate separation of employment.

Conducting corrective interviews requires planning and preparation. The manager must get the facts, identify the reasons for the action or behavior, consider the employee’s entire performance, remain calm, be objective, and stick to the facts. It is also essential to conduct corrective interviews in private, set aside specific time to address the issue, and avoid doing so before breaks, lunch time, or close to closing if possible.

Embracing confrontation is also critical in effective management. Putting matters off only worsens them and can be seen as condoning the behavior. Addressing the issue in a professional manner helps limit the emotional charge of the situation. A good discipline policy begins before discipline is necessary. Knowing your employees allows you to understand their perspective, distinguish between performance issues and disciplinary matters, and show respect to receive it.

Managing employees effectively requires discipline and performance management. Managers must differentiate between performance issues and disciplinary matters, ensure consistency in the application of disciplinary measures, and embrace confrontation when necessary. With a good discipline policy, proper planning, and preparation, managers can create a productive work environment while improving employee morale.

The Nuddleman Law Firm trains managers and supervisors on how to use corrective action to create a better work environment. We counsel employers on how to approach difficult performance and/or disciplinary situations. Our attorneys represent employees who have been subject to unlawful disciplinary actions including discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.

If you have a question about disciplinary or performance issues in your workplace, contact the Nuddleman law Firm, P.C.

Original article Robert E. Nuddleman

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The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employers and employees in a wide range of employment law matters. Much of our practice focuses on wage and hour issues, such as unpaid overtime, meal and rest break violations, designing or enforcing commission plans, and other wage-related claims. Mr. Nuddleman advises employers on how to avoid harassment and wrongful termination claims and represents employees who have been victims of unlawful discrimination, retaliation or harassment. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. helps employers develop good employment policies, helps employers and employees with disability accommodation issues and ensures employees are correctly paid wages owed.