Workplace discipline

Workplace discipline

Workplace discipline is the discipline which the employees are to observe at the workplace. It is fundamental to the smooth running of an organization. The organization runs efficiently when all its processes functions normally and the normal working of the processes occurs when the all the procedures are followed without any deviations.

The word ‘discipline has the same origin as the word ‘disciple’. Just as the disciple follows the teachings of his teacher, so discipline means following the rules, laws, and procedures of the organization or the technical processes of the workplace.  As per dictionary the meaning of discipline includes instructions and learning. It also includes improvement, correction as well as punishment.

Discipline is defined as a force that prompts individuals and group of employees to observe rules, regulations, systems, processes and procedures which are considered to be necessary for the effective functioning of the organization. It is also defined as an activity that involves acting in accordance with a set of known rules, proven guidelines and conventions framed for the purpose. It is basically an attitude of the mind and a product of culture and environment.

Discipline refers to the regulation of behaviour of the employees of the organization involving rules that govern goal orientation and behaviour of employees inside and outside the organization.

Workplace discipline consists of those features of discipline which the employees are to observe at their workplace. There are two major features of the workplace discipline (Fig 1). These are given below.

  • Observation without any deviations the technical instructions, procedures, standards, guidelines, and practices of the technological processes which the employees are operating at their workplaces
  • Observation of the rules and regulations of the organization which the management has framed for the functioning of the organization

Workplace discipline

Fig1 Major features of the workplace discipline

The first feature of the workplace discipline relates to the technological discipline of the manufacturing processes while the second feature relates to the administrative discipline of the organization. Both the features of the workplace disciplines are indispensable, if the organization is to achieve its objectives.

Workplace discipline is an aspect of behaviour. It involves in using of sound methods with consistency. Disciplined working is needed most whenever human error can cause harm, substantial inconvenience or expense. Disciplined way of working reduces/eliminates human errors, prevent common mistakes and improve consistency at the workplace. Disciplined working also improves efficiency, saves time and even facilitates creativity.

Technological discipline

Each of the plant processes has its own set of the instructions, procedures, standards, and guidelines for its smooth functioning. This set of instructions, procedures, standards, and guidelines are made with the help of knowledge and experience gained over a period of time and following basic laws and practices established either with the help of scientific principles or by analysing vast data collected over a period of time. The basic laws and practices are usually time tested and are generally accepted by all.

The importance of technological discipline at the workplace is increasing day by day. The cost of violation of technological discipline has become suicidal as the world is passing through a technological revolution, where the human life is becoming faster with each passing moment, where the processes and equipments are becoming larger and larger each day, and where the speeds of operations are increasing to the levels not been dreamt earlier,

The safe working of a process plant requires adherence to a strict technological operating discipline of following the set of the instructions, procedures, standards, and guidelines for the process plant. There is need for the following of the laws and practices of the process plant by the employees at the workplaces for the smooth functioning of the equipments and processes.

Technological discipline needs to be formulated along with the safety precautions, during design of the process and then enforced during operation. The steps involved in developing the technological discipline are as follow.

  • To identify the important operating parameters, specifying operating limits on these parameters, and arrange for them to be measured, controlled and monitored using both trend records and alarm
  • To ensure mass and energy balances are done and corrective action taken based on these balances.
  • To develop and document operating procedures, safety precautions and remedial actions
  • To strictly follow the documented procedures, precautions and the remedial actions

Violation of technological discipline is also an unsafe act which can cause disruption in the process as well as breakdown of the equipment and can result into injury which may be serious depending on the nature of the violation. The violation of technological discipline in a process makes the process unpredictable, uneconomical, unsafe and unreliable. Technological violations of a process results into productivity loss, lower product quality, increase in specific consumptions of materials, utilities and energy besides causing permanent damage to the equipment.

Technological discipline is the area which can be taught to the employees through training and education. In fact training and education initiate the employees to the culture of technological discipline which they are to follow while operating the process. The employees learn the importance of the technological discipline when they practice it on the job. It is further developed in them by experience. But employees having knowledge and experience can still violate the technological discipline because adherence to the technological discipline is an act of behaviour. The following of the technological discipline needs strict self-control.

Generally employees seek short cuts to carry out an activity and in the process they violate the technological discipline of the process. Their ego gets inflated if they succeed in carrying out the activity through shortcuts without any mishap. Such heroics tempt other employees to follow the shot cuts. These temptations result into repeated violations. Since luck has favoured them this time, they little realize that by violation of technological discipline they have endangered their own safety as well as the safety of the process, equipment, plant and fellow employees. They move towards making the process out of control. The luck usually does not show favour every time and desert at critical juncture. Hence there is the necessity that the technological discipline is to be enforced initially through proper supervision and monitoring till it becomes a habit of the employees.

Each case of violation of the technological discipline is to be dealt strictly. The virus of technological indiscipline must not be allowed to spread. Employees who are prone to the violation are to be taken out of the process and transferred to those areas where such violations are not very critical in nature.

It does not mean that the instructions, procedures, standards, guidelines and practices made for a technological process cannot be revised. In fact small revisions go on taking place on its own on a continuous basis, without people noticing it. The accumulation of these small revisions becomes quite big over a period of time. The revisions in the instructions, procedures, standards, guidelines and practices are to be made known to the employees through a system. Also in case of necessity employees may have to be given refresher training in the revised instructions, procedures, standards, guidelines and practices.

Administrative discipline

Administrative discipline is the orderly conduct of affairs by the employees of the organization who adhere to its necessary rules and regulations because they desire to cooperate harmoniously in forwarding the objectives of the organization and willingly recognize that in doing this, their objectives are also be brought into a reasonable unison with those of the organization. It is the process of training the employees so that they can develop self-control and can become more effective in their work. The objective of the administrative discipline is to obtain a willing acceptance of the employees for the rules, regulations and procedures of an organization so that organizational goals are attained.

Administrative discipline is one of the basic requirements for the organization to function efficiently. It is a part of a standard way of running of the organization. An organization without administrative discipline has a chaotic working and hence it cannot achieve its objectives and targets. Such organization project a poor image in front of its stakeholder.

The aims of the administrative discipline at the workplace is to ensure (i) conformance or adherence to the rules and directions of the organization, (ii) correcting of the behaviour which does not conform to the rules and direction, (iii)  re-asserting the authority of the management, (iv) setting of an example, and (v) punishing of the wrong doings. These aims can vary as per the needs of the organization as well as the circumstances of the employees’ behaviour. Without adherence to administrative discipline at the workplace, the workplace becomes chaotic with every employee doing exactly what he wanted.

Good management ensures employees conform to the workplace discipline. For this employees are to know the rules and the directions of the organization. Hence there is the importance of adequate communication of the rules and directions. Once the employees know what is expected from them, they can monitor their behaviour themselves and take efforts to meet the expectations. Most employees want to comply with the rules and directions but need to be told what they are in order to do so.

One important way is to educate the employees about the organizational policies. Here there may be certain policies which the employees may not understand and hence these policies need to be explained to the employees in different forums. Also management is to monitor more closely with respect to the implementation of these policies.

Administrative discipline also makes the management to take steps to discover the violations of the established rules and directions. During monitoring if some violations are discovered then management is to take steps the effectively enforce the rules and the directions of the organization.

Administrative discipline imparts an element of stability in the organization despite several differences in informal behaviours pattern of the employees. It develops among the employees a spirit of tolerance and a desire to make adjustments. It inculcate in them giving and seeking of the direction and the responsibility. It creates an atmosphere of respect for the human personality and human relations. It increases working efficiency and morale of the employees so that their productivity is stepped up and the cost of production improved.

The administrative discipline usually teaches self-control. By this discipline, employees bring their behaviour in to agreement with the organizations official behaviour thus they regulate their activities for the common good of the organization. As a result the employees are induced to work for a peak performance. In case self-control is not there then the managerial action enforces employees’ compliance with organizational rules and regulations. In such case the discipline imposed from the top and the management exercises the authority to compel the employees to behave in a particular way.

Indiscipline at workplace means disorderliness, insubordination and not following the rules and regulation of the organization. The symptoms of indiscipline are change in the normal behaviour, absenteeism, apathy, go-slow at work, increase in number and severity of grievances, persistent and continuous violation of workplace technological discipline, and lack of concern for performance. Causes of indiscipline include non-placement of the right person on the job, undesirable behaviour of supervisor, faulty evaluation of employees and situations by management leading of favoritism, lack of upward communication, and weak, flexible, incompetent and distrustful leadership etc.

Other reasons for violation of administrative discipline at the workplace include (i) defective supervision and an absence of good supervisors who know good techniques, who are in a position to appreciate critically the efforts or their subordinates, (ii) lack of properly drawn rules and regulations, (iii) employees’ personal problems, their fears, apprehensions, hopes and aspirations, (iv) employees’ lack of confidence in their inability to adjust with their superior and equals, (v) employees’ reactions to rigidity and multiplicity of rules and their improper interpretation, (vi) intolerably bad and unsafe working conditions, (vii) inborn tendencies to flout rules, (viii) absence of enlightened, sympathetic and scientific management, (ix) errors of judgment on the part of the supervisor or the management, (x) improper co-ordination, delegation of authority and fixing of responsibility, (xi) discrimination based on caste, colour, creed, sex, language, and place in matters of selection, promotion, transfer, placement and discrimination in imposing penalties and handling out rewards etc.