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Does Anybody Care About Disciplinary?

If you paid attention to generational differences you would have put half of your HR policies and procedures in the bin but you didn't so you are trying to influence people's behaviour with rules and actions they don't care about. 


As studies and observations from teachers are coming out, it is becoming clear that Gen Z and Alpha do not care about authority. They will challenge, expose, and question you. Their discipline looks very different to your discipline and as it turns out they couldn't care less about HR's silly disciplinary action. 


Needless to say, I always hated this process despite understanding its purpose. I think we went overboard with it and used it wrongly especially when HR acts as a school principal, summoning you to the office for disciplinary. God, they really enjoy that title given power, don't they? ARRGGGGGHHHH


But, it doesn't work on Gen Z so what do we do instead? How do we keep the new generation at bay? Disciplinary action doesn't scare them it is not a deterrent because they would rather leave. I have seen Gen Z walking out on HR in the middle of the disciplinary LOL. I laughed for weeks-))) They don't take threats very well. 


The whole structure of disciplinary is not easy to solve. As I said, we need it when things get really bad but its overuse made it a joke process and we should use it only in serious cases. 

In 2013 (I know but I couldn’t find a more recent study!) Personnel Today published “11 most common issues raised at a disciplinary”


1.    General Misconduct; like "insubordination" personality clash etc. We shouldn't be using disciplinary because Robert and Szilvia had a good argument. Treat them like adults and tell them to behave like ones. Then offer help to sort their differences out. Slapping them with a disciplinary will not solve the problem. 


2.    Poor performance / capability; What does performance have to do with disciplinary? I just leave it at that. Seriously? 


3.    Poor timekeeping; If you know what your performance expectations are you will not look at the time but the output. Can we stop bugging people with being on time for the office? As for other jobs, for example opening up a shop, of course, you must be on time which is part of performance and if you cannot do the job you will be fired without the need to go through disciplinary. 


4.    Unauthorised absence; Do we need a disciplinary here or it is again performance related? 


5.    Misuse of email, internet or social media; If you misuse these you might need training and guidance because let's be honest common sense is not so common. When there is malicious intent behind the misuse you must be fired and not put through a process. I understand that firing is the outcome of that process but are we still talking about disciplinary action? Are we clear about the line between "I am disciplining you because I want to keep you" or "We are done and I am firing you"? 


6.    Bullying & Harassment; 100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate based on the intention and circumstance. 


7.    Theft or fraud; 100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate based on the intention and circumstance.


8.    Health and safety breaches; 100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate based on the intention and circumstance.


9.    Violence in the workplace; 100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate.


10. Substance misuse; 100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate.


11. Discrimination; 1100% investigation and disciplinary as appropriate based on the intention and circumstance. However, I would first look at the culture because if the culture tolerates such behaviour disciplining one sounds stupid. In many cases, the culture allows subtle discrimination but disciplines one who goes just a tiny bit too far. 


Disciplinary actions are extremely tricky because they serve a good purpose but I don't think HR knows how to use them. Issuing warnings for every small thing is when the process goes wrong. I would always ask these questions:

  • Was there a malicious intent behind the action? If yes, then proceed with disciplinary action. If not, perhaps don't.

  • Is it a disciplinary or other issue like performance-related or personality clash? Both require coaching, guidance, and training and not disciplinary. I wouldn't go there. 

  • What other way can I influence better behaviour? Whilst punishment is a great tool to influence one's behaviour it should be used rarely for it to be effective. 


Intention, circumstances, and/or context! These are crucial and this is what HR doesn't bloody get!


But most importantly, HR doesn't understand that just because they have the right to issue a disciplinary it doesn't mean they have to. I have heard them saying "He is a good guy but broke the rule so I have to." No, my lovely, you don't! You could but you don't have to. The same principle applies in court. The judge has the right to apply the full force of the law and appropriate punishment but they can also decide not to based on the circumstance, context, and the intention behind the action. 


I have seen many "unfair" disciplinaries being issued where all we should have done is "Hey, you cannot do that" and the people would have apologised, understood and moved on. No, we had to issue a warning only to make them bitter and hate HR going forward. 


I have never given a formal disciplinary to my staff. I talked to them, I told them off, I punished them, I guided and coached them but never made it formal. They appreciated it and that shaped their behaviour. Once, a very good staff of mine with serious attendance issues said, "I don't think I can do this job" after having conversations about her lack of attendance. She left on a positive note without me putting her through the process. I also know that there are pain-in-the-ass employees, then you go ahead and apply the full force of your processes. But don't go there first, see what happens. Not everyone is a criminal who commits a crime. People, not only Gen Z, will appreciate this approach. 


PS: I couldn't care less about a piece of paper placed in my file. This is not what is going to stop me from doing things if I really want to do them. I guess, I am not the only one with this. 



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