Liza van Wyk
OVERLOOKING the little but
simmering ill disciplines, tolerating
even abrasive language
or behaviour may lead
to even bigger trouble.
As we debate Julius Malema’s rise and
fall, I keep thinking about the “broken windows”
theory popularised by Harvard professors
James Wilson and George Kelling.
They found that if a broken window in a
building was left unrepaired, all the windows
would be broken and the area would
deteriorate. To prevent vandalism, and
more serious crimes, fix the window.
This theory or philosophy applies to all
facets of life. The Malema saga teaches us
that when we ignore the little niceties -
tolerating coarse language or behaviour at
home, in public, at work and within our
organisations, whether governmental or
non-governmental - we invite larger
fractures in discipline and rule of law.
This applies in companies, big or small.
Correcting employees, at any level, is
among the most difficult tasks of management,
but you must do it, or else.
The intent is not to cause an employee
pain, but to change their behaviour. Think
of workplace discipline not as dishing out
punishment, but as a form of coaching
that will help shape an employee.
Discipline in the workplace aims to correct
behavioural deficiencies and ensure
adherence to company rules. It is important
to educate staff about the rules.
A positive approach may solve the problem
without having to discipline, butmanagement
should quickly address a difficult
employee with a bad attitude, since such
negativism is contagious and can affect the
morale of the entire office staff.
More often than not, problems that are
ignored only get worse, as happened with
Malema and the ANC.
Fortunately, many companies have progressive
disciplinary approaches, the effective
means of applying incremental levels
of discipline to those who violate the rules
of the workplace. In many cases, level one
may be a verbal caution for a minor offence;
level two may be a stern written
warning for more serious or repeat violations.
Level three would be reserved for
very serious matters or repeated rule violations
that may result in a suspension.
Level four would be a hearing followed by
A well-designed employee discipline
programme can help mitigate problems.
The programme should include an effective
hiring process accompanied by standardised
job descriptions and applications
to ensure only qualified candidates are
considered. The programme should also
enjoy the support of the company leadership.
Executives should always secure the advice and ongoing counsel of an attorney
specialising in local labour law.
An employee manual spelling out
policies on proper and improper attire,
offensive behaviours, internet and e-mail
usage, and tardiness and absences is a crucial
guideline in all cases. The manual
should also outline the counselling, disciplinary
and grievance processes. Once the
manual is finalised, all employees should
be required to provide written agreement
to the terms outlined in the manual.
It is important that supervisors and
managers should understand all the behavioural
policies and disciplinary procedures.
Companies should establish grievance
procedures as employees may not
always agree with a supervisor’s version of
events, and must be provided with a forum
for disputing disciplinary action.
Catch bad behavior before staff morale slips - Business Report