- Blog post
Progressive discipline: The beatings will continue until morale improves
Is discipline perceived as punishment in your organization? Are managers forced to wield your progressive discipline policy like a hammer?
There’s another way. A few years ago author Dick Grote (who wrote the book “Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work”) penned an article called “Discipline Without Punishment.” The most interesting idea in it was what he calls a “paid disciplinary suspension.”
This method was used back in the 1970s at a Frito Lay factory where punitive measures and multiple firings created the mother of all disgruntled workforces. It got so bad that numerous workers wrote obscene messages on individual potato chips, causing a PR nightmare for the company.
A better way
Instead of decreeing that “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” the company opted for a discipline-without-punishment approach.
Key to the new system was the paid disciplinary suspension, which worked like this: If an employee’s behavior was job threatening, they’d tell him,
“Tomorrow you’ll be suspended from work, but you’ll be paid. We’re going to pay you while you’re deciding what YOU want to do. Either you solve the immediate problem and make a total commitment to fully acceptable performance in every area of your job, or you quit and find more satisfying work elsewhere. But if you decide to stay, another disciplinary problem will result in your termination.”
I think this is clever because:
- It’s not punitive (heck, the company’s giving a paid day off!)
- Under the old system, the company was making all the decisions (“I’m writing you up,” “I’m suspending you,” “I’m firing you”), but the new system puts the decision squarely in the employee’s hands, which is where it should be.
By the way, the non-punitive disciplinary approach worked. Morale improved. The product sabotage stopped completely. In the first year firings went from 59 to 19. The following year there were just two.
photo credit: Ha-Wee