Discipline in the Workplace and the Results of Inaction

Discipline in the workplace is a very important tool for correcting negative or unacceptable behavior of employees so that they perform better and show other employees consistency in following company practices (Snell, 2016).  Some of the main reasons why managers should never be inactive when dealing with necessary employee discipline include:

  • Protecting the safety of all other employees
  • Preventing inefficient operations due to employee attendance and other issues
  • Eliminating the potential for theft and dishonesty

Let’s look a little closer at the results of inaction from an employer to discipline employees who are not complying with acceptable workplace standards.    

Lack of Safety Procedures = Many Unnecessary Company Costs

It is an employer’s ethical duty to provide a safe work environment for all employees.  Several reasons why an employer would want to ensure they keep their employees safe are to retain their most important asset (human capital), prevent lawsuits from injured employees, and save many unnecessary costs such as workers compensation and time missed from work.  If an employee is continuously allowed to do things such as bully other employees or managers, use profanity, sleep on the job, climb tall ladders without the use of lanyards, and lift heavy things while not wearing a hard hat, the safety of all other employees is at great risk. 

Implementing safety rules, such as the types required by OSHA will ensure that employees, customers and contractors do not get hurt while on company premises (Mooney, 2018).  Proper training of the safety rules and discipline for the employees who fail to follow them is very important to prevent legal action and the high costs of workers compensation insurance. (Mooney, 2018).  Another thing that can occur is the loss of customers and suppliers who may say that you are not allowed on their property nor do they want to enter your property due to safety hazards. 

No Employee Handbook = Chaos and Inefficient Operations

Ensuring that an employee handbook is in place for things such as aggressive behavior, substance abuse and sexual harassment are key to preventing the safety of all employees.  If not in place, a shooting or other serious act of violence can occur, including someone doing something like accidentally injuring someone with a forklift because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  An example I have had to deal with is a disgruntled employee who thought that I had messed up his paycheck on purpose.  The employee didn’t even give me a chance to calmly look at everything but instead immediately exploded at me using profanity and yelling.  The reason why he thought this was appropriate behavior is because his manager had allowed the aggressive behavior for a long time.  I immediately had a conversation with the manager and told him that I would not allow that behavior towards me or anyone else again. 

Inefficient operations such as angry customers whose phone calls are not answered immediately, or production lines shut down are very good reasons for the immediate discipline of employees who are consistently late or not showing up at all to work.  Since “efficiency is tied to a disciplined organization”, an employer needs to have rules in place for tardiness, lunch breaks, etc. to prevent chaos when trying to effectively lead operations (Mooney, 2018).  A good way to combat this issue is to ensure that you have an employee handbook in place.  An experienced HR attorney can definitely assist you in writing this up to meet any and all legal compliance for the state you do business in.  If you choose to not implement an employee handbook, then your company could face serious issues such as the loss of customers due to backorders, lost time on employees who take longer lunch breaks than allowed and basically just create chaos within the company.    

Negligence in Enforcing Company Policies = Theft & Embezzlement   

Finally, allowing an employee to not follow company policies and procedures for invoice approvals, contracts with customers, orders from suppliers, etc., sets a company up for fraud and embezzlement.  According to David Worrell, a finance consultant and part-time CFO, the average amount that an embezzling employee steals from a company in a month is $17,656 (Worrell, 2012).  According to David and what I know as a Controller at my current employer, it is essential to develop a system of controls for separation of job duties (Worrell, 2012).  Even though this is very difficult to do in a small business such as the one I work for with only 40 employees, I am slowly trying to develop methods of separating certain duties in payroll and accounting processes that I manage. 

When management turns a “blind eye” to employees who are not following company policies, the result can very potentially be theft and embezzlement which equals major company losses.  For example, an employee who constantly has “missed time punches” might need to be investigated as to whether they are committing what is called time fraud.  My tried and true advice as an HR manager is to start looking at company cameras to verify what time the employee actually came and went from your business.  Not trying to make myself seem arrogant at all, but each time I have suspected an employee as committing time fraud, I have been correct…trust your instincts for sure.

Other reasons that theft and embezzlement can occur is when there is not enough separation of duties, such as a Controller who has full access to sign checks, transfer funds in bank accounts but also is the same person who reconciles the bank accounts.  An inventory manager who is allowed to conduct the year-end inventory count without checkoffs from other departments is a pure setup for embezzlement of company assets.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is in a company’s best interests to develop a good discipline plan and enforce it in order to promote a positive and healthy workplace for all employees.  By establishing better discipline methods and accounting controls, your company will most definitely be setup for success in more ways than just what revenue your sales staff is bringing in the front door.  Why not seriously consider what is going on in the back door of your business?  I assure you that it will be very worth it…cost and reputation wise.

References

Mooney, L. (2018, April 13). The Importance of Discipline in an Organization. Retrieved from azcentral: https://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/importance-discipline-organization-4661.html

Snell, S. M. (2016). Managing Human Resources (17th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Worrell, D. (2012, August 22). Protect Your Small Business From Fraud and Embezzlement. Retrieved from smallbizdaily: https://www.smallbizdaily.com/protect-your-small-business-from-fraud-and-embezzlement/

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