Virtually all workplaces have situations in which an employee acts up or performs poorly, but the way a supervisor deals with the issue will quickly reveal the company's management style. Management teams that accentuate the positive often attempt to fix the problem through coaching, while others discipline the person in question. Employees generally enjoy working for an employer that focuses on coaching over discipline.
Whether you work for a small company and have close relationships with each of your colleagues or work for a giant firm and enjoy relative anonymity at work, you've probably witnessed a colleague who's made a blunder. Perhaps she's consistently shown up late for work, acted inappropriately in front of a big client or carried herself in a loud, boisterous manner at her desk. Whatever the case, her supervisor has the choice of implementing discipline or coaching to help avoid similar situations in the future.
Each business approaches employee discipline in a different way, but common disciplinary actions include a verbal or written warning, one or more days off without pay and eventually, dismissal. These forms of discipline vary according to the offense; an employee who is constantly late for work will likely receive one or more verbal warnings, while someone who sexually harasses a colleague will likely be dismissed without other types of warning.
Whereas many managers use discipline as a way to avoid a similar situation occurring again, others focus on coaching as a way of helping the employee through the issue. Every business has different styles of coaching, and the approaches can be informal or formal. In a small company, a manager might take an employee to lunch to explain techniques to have more success with clients, for example. Other companies organize lengthy training sessions, often for a large number of employees, that include seminars on relevant topics.
In the present-day business world, many companies use the term "progressive discipline" as a concept that puts a positive spin on traditional discipline. Traditional discipline, which is common among school-aged children, casts shame or disapproval on the offender, whereas coaching or progressive discipline is a consistent way to prevent the issue from happening again. According to Canadian law firm Evans, Philp LLP, an obstacle to disciplining employees is creating a culture of fear. In a workplace that stresses progressive discipline or coaching, management clearly explains how its discipline strategy works to avoid employee fear or confusion.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.