June 17, 2024

Employee Discipline

Employee Discipline

Discipline may be defined as an attitude of mind which aims at inculcating restraint, orderly behaviour and respect for and willing obedience to a recognized authority. In any industry discipline is a useful tool for developing, improving and stabilizing the personality of workers. Industrial discipline is essential for the smooth running of an organisation, for increasing production and productivity, for the maintenance of industrial peace and for the prosperity of the industry and the nation. It is a process of bringing multifarious advantages to the organisation and its employees.


Webster’s Dictionary gives three meanings to the world “discipline”. First, it is the training that corrects, moulds, strengthens or perfects individual behaviour; second, it is control gained by enforcing obedience; and third, it is punishment or chastisement.

According to Dr. Spiegel, “discipline is the force that prompts an individual or a group to observe the rules, regulations and procedures which are deemed to be necessary to the attainment of an objective; it is force or fear of force which restraints an individual or a group from doing things which are deemed to be destructive of group objectives.

Discipline is a product of culture and environment and a basic part of the management of employee attitudes and behaviour. It is a determinative and positive willingness which prompts individuals and groups to carry out the instructions issued by management, and abide by the rules of conduct and standards or work which have been established to ensure the successful attainment of organizational objectives. It is also a punitive or a big stick approach which imposes a penalty or punishment in case of disciplinary violations.

There are two types of discipline, one is positive and the other is negative. Positive Discipline employs constructive force to secure its compliance. It is immeasurably more effective and pays a greater role in business management. Negative Discipline, on the other hand, includes both the application of penalties for violation and the fear of penalties that serve as a deterrent to violation. Positive discipline prevails only where the employees have a high morale. In other situations, negative discipline becomes unavoidable.

Aims and objectives

The main aims and objectives of discipline are:

  • To obtain a willing acceptance of the rules, regulations and procedures of an organisation so that organizational objectives can be attained;
  • To develop among the employees a spirit of tolerance and a desire to make adjustments;
  • To give and seek direction and responsibility;
  • To create an atmosphere of respect for human personality and human relations;
  • To increase the working efficiency morale of the employees; and
  • To impart an element of certainty despite several differences in informal behaviour patterns and other related changes in an organisation.


The term ‘indiscipline’ generally means the violation of formal or informal rules and regulations in an organisation. Indiscipline, if unchecked, will affect the morale of the organisation. Hence indiscipline is to be checked by appropriate positive means to maintain industrial peace.

Causes for indiscipline in organizations

It is more complex and difficult to identify the causes of indiscipline. The policies and procedures of organizations, the attitude of the management towards workers, the attitude of workers, individual behaviors etc. are the causes for indiscipline.

The important causes for indiscipline are:

  • Ineffective leadership to control, coordinate and motivate workers.
  • Low wages and poor working conditions.
  • Lack of timely redressal or workers’ grievances.
  • Lack or defective grievance procedure.
  • Character of the workers such as gambling, drinking, violet nature etc.
  • Political influence.

Principle Of Effective Discipline

Disciplinary actions have serious repercussions on the employees and on the industry, and, therefore, must be based on certain principles in order to be fair, just and acceptable to be the employee and their unions. Therefore, in any discipline maintenance system, certain principles are to be observed such as:

  1. The rules of discipline, as far as possible, should be framed in cooperation and collaboration with the representatives of employees for their easy implementation. Employees in a group should be associated in the process of discipline enforcement. The group as a whole can control an individual works much more effectively than the management can through a process of remote control or by imposing occasional penalties. Informal groups are likely to exert social pressures on wrong-doers avoiding the need for negative disciplinary actions.
  2. The rules and regulations should be appraised at frequent and regular intervals to ensure that they are appropriate, sensible and useful.
  3. The rules and regulations should be flexible to suit different categories of employees in the organisation, i.e., both the blue-collar workers and white-collar employees.
  4. The rules must be uniformly enforced for their proper acceptance. They must be applied fairly and impersonally. In other words, all defaulters should be treated alike, depending upon the nature of their offence and past record. Any discrimination or favoritism in this regard is likely to create discontent among the employees. Further, there should be a definite and precise provision for appeal and review of all disciplinary actions.
  5. The rules of discipline embodied in the standing orders, or in the company’s manual, must be properly and carefully communicated to every employee preferably at the time of induction for their easy acceptance. It serves as a warning and a learning process and helps to improve future behaviors of the employees in the enterprise.
  6. Every kind of disciplinary penalty, even if it is a rebuke or a warning, should be recorded. In some of the American industries they have what is known as the “pink slip system”. Pink slips are issued as warning signals to a defaulting employee. A person who has been issued with a stated number of pink slips will be liable to be laid-off or discharged, and no elaborate procedure has to be followed.
  7. The responsibility for maintaining employee discipline should be enirusted to a responsible person (e.g. a line executive), through it is the personnel officer who should be given the responsibility of offering advice and assistance. The line executive should issue only verbal and written warnings. In serious matters, which warrant suspension, discharge etc., the industrial relations departments should be consulted.
  8. Disciplinary actions should be taken in private because its main objectives is to ensure that a wrong behaviour is corrected and not that the wrongdoer is punished. If disciplinary actions are taken in the presence of other employees, it may offend the sense of dignity of the employee and impair his social standing with his colleagues. Similarly, an immediate supervisor should never be disciplined in the presence of his subordinates. If this happens, it would lower his status and authority, and make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to discipline his subordinates under certain circumstances.
  9. A punitive actions must satisfy the principle of natural justice. The management must act without bias and without vindictiveness, and its disciplinary actions must be based on justice and fairplay. The punishment should be commensurate with the gravity of the offence. An individual is presumed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty. The burden of proof is on the employer and not on the employee.

Approaches to Discipline Enforcement

The different approaches to discipline include-

  • Human Relations Approach
  • Human Resources Approach
  • Group Discipline Approach
  • The Leadership Approach and

Under human relations approach, the employee is treated as human being and his acts of indiscipline will be dealt from the view point of human values, aspirations, problems, needs, goals, behaviors etc. In this approach the employee is helped to correct his deviations.

Under human resources approach, the employee is considered as ‘resource’ as an asset to the organisation. This approach analysis the cause of indiscipline from management activities such as defects in selections, training, motivations, leadership etc., after indentifying the defects, corrective steps are carried out by the management.

Under group discipline approach, group as a whole, sets the standard of disciplines and punishments for the deviations. In this approach, trade unions also act as agencies in maintaining discipline in work situation.

Under the leadership approach, in disciplinary cases are dealt on the basis of legislations and court decisions. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 to a certain extent, prescribed the correct procedure that should be followed before awarding punishment to an employee.

Code of Discipline

The Fifteenth Indian Labour Conference discussed the question of discipline in industry and lain down the following general principles:

  • There should be no lock-out or strike without notice.
  • No unilateral action should be taken in connection with any industrial matter.
  • There should be no recourse to go-slow tactics.
  • No deliberate damage should be caused to plant or property.
  • Acts of violence, intimidation, coercion or instigation should not be resorted to.
  • The existing machinery for settlement of disputes should be utilized.
  • Awards and agreements should be speedily implemented.
  • Any agreement which disturbs cordial industrial relations should be avoided.

The Code embodies four parts. Part I contains the duties and responsibilities of employees, workers and the government in maintaining discipline in industry. Part II enlists the common obligations of management and unions. Part III deals with the obligations of management only, while Part IV relates to those of the unions only. In additions, Annexure-A to the Code embodies the national level agreement on the criteria for the recognition of unions. A supplementary document contains the rights of recognized unions and a model grievance procedure. Thus, the Code is highly comprehensive and ethical in its approach to the industrial relations system. It has been reproduced below.

Part –I: To maintain discipline in industry (both in public and private sectors)

There has to be: (i) a just recognition by employers and workers of the rights and responsibilities of either party, as defined by the laws and agreements (including bipartite and tripartite agreements arrived at all levels from time to time); and ii) a proper and willing discharge by either party of its obligation consequent on such recognition.

Part – II: To ensure better discipline in industry, management and union(s) agree

  • that no unilateral actions should be taken in connection with any industrial matter and that disputes should be settled at appropriate level;
  • that the existing machinery for settlement of disputes should be utilized with the utmost expedition.
  • that there should be no strike or lock-out without notice;
  • that affirming their faith in democratic principles, they bind themselves to settle all future differences, disputes and grievances by mutual negotiation, conciliation and voluntary arbitration;
  • that neither will have recourse to (a) coercion, (b) intimidation, (c) victimization, and (d) go-show;
  • that they will avoid (a) litigation, (b) sit-down and stay-in-strikes, and (c) lock-outs;
  • that they will promote constructive cooperation between their representatives at all levels and as between workers themselves and abide by the spirit of agreements mutually entered into;
  • that they will establish upon a mutually agreed basis a Grievance Procedure which will ensure a speedy and full investigation leading to settlement;
  • that they will abide by various stages in the Grievance Procedure and take no arbitrary action which would by-pass this procedure; and
  • that they will educate the management personnel and workers regarding their obligations to each other.

Part-III Management agrees

  • not to increase work-loads unless agreed upon or settled otherwise;
  • not to support or encourage nay unfair labour practice such as: (a) interference with the right of employees to enroll or continue as union members; (b) discriminations, restraint or coercion against any employee because of recognized activity of trade unions; and (c) victimization of any employee and abuse of authority in any form;
  • to take prompt actions for (a) settlement of grievance, and (b) implementation of settlements, awards, decisions and orders;
  • to display in conspicuous places in the undertaking the provision of this Code in local language(s);
  • to distinguish between actions justifying immediate discharge and those where discharge must e preceded by a warning, reprimand, suspension or some other form of disciplinary action and to arrange that all such disciplinary action should be subject to an appeal through normal Grievance Procedure;
  • to take appropriate disciplinary action against its officers and members in cases where enquiries reveal that they were responsible for precipitate action by workers leading to indiscipline; and
  • to recognize the unions in accordance with the criteria (Annexure A given below) evolved at the 16th session of the Indian Labour Conference held in May, 1958.

Part-IV: Union(s) agree

  • not to encourage any form of physical duress;
  • not to permit demonstrations which are not peaceful and not to permit rowdyism in demonstration;
  • that their members will not engage or cause other employees to engage in any union activity during working hours, unless as provided for by law, agreement or practice;
  • to discourage unfair labour practices such as: (a) negligence of duty, (b) careless operation, (c) damage to property, (d) interference with or disturbance to normal work, and (e) insubordination;
  • to take prompt actions to implement awards, agreements, settlements and decisions;
  • to display in conspicuous places in the union offices, the provision of this Code in the local language(s); and
  • to express disapproval and to take appropriate action against office bearers and members for indulging in action against the spirit of this Code.

The Code does not have any legal section but the following moral sanctions are behind it:

  1. The Central Employers’ and Workers’ Organizations shall take the following steps against their constituent units guilty of breaches of Code:
  • to ask the unit to explain the infringement of the Code;
  • to give notice to the unit to set right the infringement within a specific period;
  • to warn, and in case persistent violation of the Code; and
  • not to give countenance, in any manner, to non-members who did not observe the Code; and
  • not to give countenance, in any manner, to non-members who did not observe the Code.
  1. Grave, willful and persistent breaches of the Code by any party should be widely publicized.
  2. Failure to observe the Code would entail derecognition normally for a period of one year-this period may be increased or decreased by the implementing Committee concerned.
  3. A dispute may not ordinarily be referred for adjudication if there is a strike or lockout without proper notice or in breach of the code as determined by an Implementation.

The Code of Discipline worked well at the beginning of its introduction and had a considerable impact on the industrial relations scene. But, however, the impact of the Code was not sustained over a long period of time due to several problems in its application and implementation. The spirit of the Code has not been imbibed by the central organisations which were signatories to it.

According to the National Commission on Labour, the Code has had only limited success and was obviously not the answer to the industrial relations problems. The Code began to rust and the parties were more eager to take it off; they developed an attitude of indifference. As regards the future of the Code, the Commission was in favour of giving a legal form to its important provisions regarding recognition of unions, grievance procedure, unfair labour practices, and the like. With the removal of these provisions from the Code to give them a statutory shape, the Code will have no useful function to perform.

Discipline is a two-way traffic and a breach of discipline on the part of either party in industry will cause unrest. The approach to managing discipline depends to a great extent upon managerial philosophy, culture and attitude towards the employees. A negative approach to discipline relies heavily on punitive measures and in the line with the traditional managerial attitude of “hire and fire” and obedience to orders. On the other hand, a constructive approach stress on modifying forbidden behaviour by taking positive steps like educating, counseling etc., The concept of positive discipline promotion aims at the generation of a sense of self-discipline and disciplined behaviour in all the human beings in a dynamic organizational setting, instead of discipline imposed by force or punishment. In brief, the approach to the disciplinary action in most cases should be corrective rather than punitive.

Download Study Material Here Download Study Material