Setting Up a Discipline Program

In most small businesses, enforcement of rules is done on a casual basis. For example, if someone is spending too much time on the phone taking personal calls, you'd probably just aim a few well-placed hints in his or her direction. If that doesn't work, you might informally take the person aside and explain to them how this affects your business and the person's value as an employee.

When you're working closely with someone on a daily basis, it's usually best to talk to them about any behavior that is inappropriate, without waiting until the problem gets so bad that you need to issue a formal warning. Sometimes employees are unaware of what they've been doing and what you expect of them, and a few words will be enough to set them on the right track. Keep the lines of communication open and flowing in both directions, so that your employees can discuss their concerns and problems with you as well. If you deal with small problems as they arise, you can often avoid the big blowups that can occur when bottled-up feelings are finally let loose.

Sadly, open and frequent communication doesn't always do the trick. In fact, if you have more than one or two workers, it's almost certain that at some point you will have to discipline an employee for something, but don't wait until then to set up a program. Employees need to know the consequences of bad behavior or poor performance before it happens.

What makes a good disciplinary system? More than anything else, a good disciplinary system is the result of having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your disciplinary system. Do you want to punish or do you want to correct and educate?

In formulating your discipline philosophy and program, consider: