Employee Discipline: Meaning, Determinants, Causes of Indiscipline, Code of Discipline and its Enforcement

11/07/2021 1 By indiafreenotes

The word discipline comes from two very nice words “discipulus” meaning pupil and “discare” to learn. Discipline then is the devotion of a disciple towards his learning. In self-discipline obviously the emphasis is to know where one is going and to focus one’s attention on one’s purpose. Discipline in this sense refers to the development of the individual.

In “positive” discipline, there is willingness to comply that comes from the desire to cooperate in achieving the common goal of the organization The emphasis here is on cooperative efforts to secure compliance to organizational norms.

According to Dr. W. R. Spriegel, “discipline is the force that prompts an individual or a group to observe the rules, regulations or procedure which are seemed to be necessary to the attainment of an objective. It is force or fear which restrains an individual or a group from doing certain things which are deemed to be distractive for group objectives. It is also the exercise of restraint or the enforcement of penalties for the violation of group regulations.”

Klebster’s Dictionary gives three meanings of the word discipline:

(i) It is the training that corrects, moulds, strengthens or perfects

(ii) It is control gained by enforcing obedience.

(iii) Punishment, chastisement.

In the work situation there is usually an attempt to modify the offending employee’s behaviour so that it more closely accords with the management’s requirements. Whist the possibility of sanctions is ever present, the focus is on problem solving. Thus, “Discipline” means orderliness, obedience and maintenance of proper subordinating among employees and a check or restraint on the liberty of individual.

It is at once a training that corrects, moulds and strengthens the individual behaviour. It is also a force which prompts an individual or group to observe certain rules, regulations and procedures that are considered to be necessary for the attainment of an objective.

Discipline is essentially an attitude of the mind, a product of culture and environment. The approach to discipline will depend on the supervisor and the general ethos of the organization, but most people now recognize that many of the old sanctions, relatively easy to apply, are no longer appropriate Inculcating self-discipline is the right approach and the superior’s own example, consistency and integrity will do much to achieve acceptable behaviour. Where the superior is respected, he can expect tacit support.

Discipline is at its best when it has been developed from within and not imposed from outside; and at the same time it has to be reformative and not punitive. It should be founded on leadership, loyalty, and love.

For effective discipline the following principles need to be considered:

  • Discipline should be constructive, and emphasis on work efficiency rather than adaptation of rules and regulations.
  • Disciplinary action should not be initiated unless there is imperative need for it
  • Discipline is not to be administered unthinkingly. Each case should be treated keeping the specifics in view.
  • All facts regarding a case should be collected to gain proper appreciation of the case.
  • Employee should be given a fair chance to explain his side of the story.
  • Attempt should be made to know the worker’s perception. It helps better appreciation of the situation. Also, admission of mistake on the part of the offending party should be encouraged.
  • Employee should not be disciplined in the presence of his colleagues or subordinates.
  • Right timing of action is important. Action should be taken as soon as possible after the occurrence of questionable behaviour.
  • Corrective measure should be adequately served in order to be effective.
  • Consistency in disciplinary action is important.
  • Once disciplinary action is taken normal attitude should be resumed towards the offending employee.
  • Occasions of ‘disciplining’ should be reduced to the minimum by showing constant and sincere interest in each worker’s welfare on and off the job.
  • Admission of mistake should be encouraged On the part of the offending party.
  • Every action taken requires auditing in due course to judge its efficacy, specifically in terms of:

(a) The extent to which the situation was corrected.

(b) Extent to which the employee realized his mistake.

(c) Impact on organisational climate.

Causes of Indiscipline

Environmental Factors:

Since an organization is also one of the members of the society, discipline observed by the society manifests in organizations. Indiscipline prevailing in family, educational institutions, political system, religious institutions, break down, of social control mechanism, etc., casts its ugly shadow on the organizational climate.

Individual Factors:

Individual differences caused by education, experience, values, attitudes, beliefs, intelligence, personality, etc., cause employees to behave differently in an organization. Therefore, some individuals conform to rules and standards of behaviour in much wider context than others.

Individual features that lead to indiscipline behaviour are as follows:

  • Individuals with non-conformist values tend to engage in indisciplined behaviour.
  • Individuals differ in work ethics. Those with high ethical values tend to be committed and involved in the jobs while those with low ethical values show alienation to their jobs and exhibit negative behaviour.
  • Every individual perceives reward and punishment differently and react to it accordingly. When the reward is not commensurate with his expectation, he may feel frustrated and indulge in indiscipline.

Organizational Factors:

  • Lack of code of conduct for employees has potential to disorient them thereby sowing seeds of indiscipline.
  • Where the organization, while hiring the employees, fail to assess the traits of individuals like attitude, obedience, tolerance and inquisitiveness, it may end up hiring employees who challenge any decision made by the management. This may breed indiscipline.
  • Where an employee hired for a job for which he has neither aptitude nor attitude, he is sure to develop ill-feelings. He may find the job uninteresting and do everything to evade responsibility.
  • Indiscriminate use of penal provisions triggers reactionary group indiscipline.
  • Ineffective leadership characterised by authoritarianism and incompetency, and distrustful relations with employees fuel indiscipline among the employees.
  • Favouritism and nepotism practiced by supervisors vitiate discipline.
  • Biased performance evaluation on considerations of caste, creed, colour, gender, religion and region promotes ill-feeling and a sense of injustice among employees which culminate in indiscipline.
  • Divisive policies pursued by management and instituting unofficial spy network spoils the work atmosphere thereby engendering indiscipline.
  • Absence of grievance redressal mechanism frustrates employees thereby breeding indiscipline among them.

Code of Discipline and its Enforcement

  1. Motivate an employee to comply with the company’s performance standards:

Employee receives discipline after failing to meet some obligation of job. The failure could be either directly related to the tasks performed by the employee or ignoring rules and regulations that define proper conduct at work.

  1. Maintain respect and trust between the supervisor and employee:

Discipline if not properly administered can create problems like low morale, resentment, and ill-will between the employees. In such case, improvement in employee’s behaviour, if any, will be relatively short-lived and the supervisor will need to discipline the employee again and again. On the contrary, properly administered discipline will not only improve employee behaviour but will also minimize future disciplinary problems through good relationship between the supervisor and the employee.

  1. Improve the performance of the employee:

Discipline for poor task performance should not be applied while employees are on training or learning the job. Nor should employees be disciplined for problems beyond their control, for example, failure to meet output standards due to the lack of raw materials. Yes, discipline should be exercised when employees are found responsible for unsatisfactory performance.

  1. Increase the morale and working efficiency of the employees.
  2. Foster industrial peace which is the very foundation of industrial democracy.

The 15th session of the Indian Labour Conference held in July 1957, discussed the problem of discipline in industry and formulated certain principles for removing employee grievances and settling indus­trial disputes by mutual negotiation, conciliation and voluntary arbi­tration.

The Code of Discipline has come into force from June 1958. The Code of Discipline can be described as a truce between organised labour and management.

The following principles were discussed:

  • No unilateral action should be taken.
  • There should be no lockout or strike without notice.
  • No recourse to go-slow tactics.
  • No acts of violence, intimidation, coercion or instigation.
  • No deliberate damage to plant or property.
  • Existing machinery for settlement of disputes should be utilized.
  • No agreement violating cordial industrial relations should be en­tered into.
  • Awards and agreements should be speedily implemented.

The above principles were accepted and incorporated in the Code of Discipline, in toto. Certain modifications were made to codify them which became a “Code of Discipline”.

This was ratified by the four central national labour organisations (INTUC UTUC, AITUC, and HMS) on behalf of the workers and by the Employers’ Federation of India, the All India Organisation of Industrial Employers and the All India Manufacturers’ Organisation on behalf of the employers.

The Code of Discipline however, could not prevent the major strikes in the steel plant at Jamshedpur, in dockyards at important ports, in the plantation industry in Kerala, at Calcutta Tramways, Hindustan Shipyard and Heavy Electricals at Bhopal.

A seminar on the working of the Code of Discipline was held in 1965. Again, in 1967, the working of the Code of Discipline was reviewed at the meet­ing of the Central Implementation and Evaluation Committee and the proposal to set up a National Arbitration Promotion Board for encour­aging voluntary arbitration was finalized.


Positive Discipline

According to Spiegel, “Positive discipline does not replace reason but applies reason to the achievement of a common objective. Positive Discipline does not restrict the individual freedom but enables him to have a greater degree of self-expression in striving to achieve the group objective, which he identifies as his own.”

It means that positive Discipline is not that ideal that it can’t be achieved. It also does not imply that an individual’s freedom is restricted. Rather it provides better chances to an individual for expressing himself. The individual in this process, is able to bridge the gap between his and the group goals.

It is also to be noted that positive discipline promotes cooperating and coordination with a minimum of formal organization. It reduces the need for strict supervision required to maintain standards and observe rules and regulations. Everyone is answerable to oneself and therefore one is not answerable to anyone else.

  1. It is the creation of a conducive climate in an organization so that employees willingly conform to the established rules.
  2. There is no conflict between individual & organization goals.
  3. Employees exercise self control to meet organization objectives.

Negative Discipline

Under negative discipline, penalties are used to force the workers to obey rules and regulations. In other words, workers try to adhere to rules and regulations out of fear of warnings, penalties and other forms of punishment. This approach to discipline is called negative or punitive approach.

This is an unfavorable state that subjects the employees to frustration, and consequently results in low morale. Let me ask you a question, how will you react if you are punished for a wrong act of yours? Will you welcome it? I am sure it would be much better that an environment is created where one does not commit any wrongful act. If at all there is some indiscipline, it has to be handled in a calm and matured way.

There is another drawback related to negative discipline. An employee goes astray in his behaviour whenever there is a slightest possibility of escaping the punishment or when he believes that his action will go unnoticed.

Progressive and development oriented managers adopt a positive approach to discipline rather than negative approach. In the positive approach, attempts are made to educate the workers the values of discipline. The workers should be taught self-discipline. Disciplinary action should be taken only in exceptional circumstances where no other alternative is left. Disciplinary action should always incorporate consideration of just cause and due process.

  1. It is adherence to established norms & regulations, out of fear of punishment.
  2. Employees do not perceive the corporate goals as their own.
  3. Requires intense supervisory control to prevent employees from going off the track.