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Discipline: A Quick Guide for Management

OK you're newly promoted to a supervisory role or perhaps have been given the prestigious title of EMS Director for your service.... now what? It is inevitable that you will have to deal with personnel conflict and on occasion may have to correct some unwarranted behaviors. Historically, it seems like progressive discipline was extremely commonplace, but today that is beginning to fall out of favor. If you think about it, this is an official company policy to treat people progressively worse while making it progressively more difficult for them to improve.

Let's be honest -- very few managers relish the role of disciplinarian. Save the handful of leaders who enjoy flaunting their position of power, most would rather spend their valuable time on productivity and process improvement, rather than punishment. As unpleasant as it may be to point out employee wrongdoings however, the task comes with the position. As they say, "heavy is the crown." Leaders who shun the responsibility risk appearing ineffective. They also can endanger the safety, morale, and success of their workplace. This damage can have long-term consequences as well.

On the contrary, managers who handle employee discipline in a mature, consistent, and organized manner earn the respect of their staff. Employees subject to disciplinary action may even emerge from the experience motivated to improve and more knowledgeable about how to correct their performance or behavior.

While procedures vary by organization, the following offers a general overview of employee discipline:

+ Set clear expectations early -- an ounce of prevention could save some heartache later on.

+ Be consistent and fair (this is not the same as treating people equally - there is a difference. Prepare for conversations in advance.

+ Discipline in private at all times AND do it promptly (save the public engagements for time of praise around a job well done.

+ Model the behavior you would like to see (personnel will become a product of their environment)

+ Discipline has nothing to do with dominance or punishment (in about promoting a safe + pleasant environment for all)

+ Fully utilize training and performance improvement plans (make the goals measurable)

+ Probe for underlying causes of the underlying behaviors.

+ Offer up bidirectional feedback (communication is a two-way street)

+ Performance coaching > progressive discipline (facilitate resolutions, but don't provide them outright -- let the employee become empowered by having a say in the remedy.

As a new leader, you will play an essential role in the workplace by setting an example and promoting effective discipline. By following the tips, I have listed above, leaders can ensure that their entire team maintains a consistent work ethic. The ultimate goal is to have items like misbehavior, misconduct, or similar behaviors be less likely. Now get out there and create a well-disciplined and highly productive team, and while you're at it - go ahead and mold other leaders to succeed you.

October 30, 2023

Author: Joshua Ishmael, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM, NRP

Pass with PASS, LLC.

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