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Think positive about discipline.

Like the analogy of a glass being half empty or half full, I always preface any face-to-face disciplinary hearing by telling employees that they may consider our meeting in one of two ways-it can be a first step toward job termination or, as I like to look at it, a corrective action leading to improved performance.

The problem with discipline is that too many people seem to accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive. The ultimate purpose of discipline should be to regulate behavior, not merely to punish. Harsh, negative punishment might work in the short term, but the end result will eventually be employee dissatisfaction, low productivity, and high turnover. Positive discipline, on the other hand, if utilized properly should lead to long-term solutions and a more productive and effective work force.

Positive discipline won't occur, however, unless both parties are on the same track. If an employee becomes defiant and denies any wrongdoing the minute he or she comes into your off Ice, you probably won't be able to motivate a better performance, By the same token, a supervisor has to take some initiative in this challenging process and not look upon disciplinary hearings as a quick means to get rid of a problem. It is a more rewarding feeling for the supervisor to turn the employee around rather than give up and terminate someone who is not performing to expectations.

When it comes to the timing of a disciplinary action, most experts say the sooner the better. Try to talk with the employee just after the infraction.

Sometimes, however, it is more prudent to avoid a heated confrontation by sleeping on the problem. Giving the employee time to let things sink in might result in a more positive approach during a disciplinary hearing.

One of the basic and most effective tools in positive discipline is a simple counseling session. Sometimes just having a heart-toheart talk with employees helps to bring out the underlying problems beyond their performance. Tell the employee you are taking off the hat you wear as boss and ask the employee to relax, too. Simple gestures like getting up from your desk and talking face-to-face with your employee may help create an environment for open communication. I found that nine times out out 10, the problem stops at this point.

If it doesn't, we follow a protocol of verbal and then written warnings. Even during these formal steps, you should still keep things upbeat. Employees should leave the session with the impression that you genuinely care and hope that they will improve their performance. Positive discipline should be focused on the problem, not the individual. Try to keep the topic on track by steering away from unrelated matters. Above all, don't allow the employee to bring co-workers' performance into the conversation.

When taking any action regarding employee performance, documentation is the key. It is perhaps most important when it comes to discipline. I always tell supervisors to prepare documentation as if they were going to court, because in truth they may end up there. If their evidence won't stand up under scrutiny 'in court, then perhaps disciplinary action should not have been taken.

Effective documentation often helps to keep the disciplinary action on a positive track. Employees generally take things personally when they are reprimanded. If you can document their shortcomings, they may face the facts and develop a more cooperative attitude.

As supervisors and managers, we should look at positive discipline as one of the tools we use to manage personnel. Anybody can fire or suspend an employee. It takes talent to be able to turn problem employees into valuable members of the laboratory team. It is a challenge we should not shirk.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1988
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