June 2024

Discipline as a Motivational Tool

Leadership – Discipline as a Motivational Tool
By Mervyn Murray

It is never a nice thing to sack people for poor performance or for transgressions of disciplinary rules. I would go so far as to say that having to sack someone is often down to a failure of management and leadership. Discipline can be used in a positive sense.

Many managers dread having “The Disciplinary Conversation” with a member of their team. They will:

Ignore behaviour
Be in denial that there is an issue
Take a small “stab” at the issue hoping for a result
Move the person onto another department
Make the person feel unwanted
Use sarcasm to make a point

None of which is helpful for the staff member, the team or the reputation of the manager and his/ her organisation. It certainly does nothing for increased performance and results.

The good news is that we can use the disciplinary process as a motivational tool, when used with care, empathy and a good degree of determination. Using disciplne to turn a negative situation around is a positive approach to take.

There is a 5-step model for having “The Disciplinary Conversation” that managers may find helpful, however there is an important step everyone should take before embarking on this effective disciplinary process.

Take legal advice first and let them know what you intend to say and do. Follow their advice, should it differ from the steps below because employment law changes and this may not be effective from a legal standpoint when you come to implement the steps.

The steps are:

1. Pinpoint the behaviour you want – Nail exactly what is required and write this down for your records and for clarity during your conversations

2. Record the facts – Record facts, not hearsay, input from others should be based on unemotional details, not points of view

3. Involve the person – Ask them what they think. It is easy for the manager to be judge and jury, resist the urge to jump to conclusions

4. Coach – Coach the person in the required behaviours, so that they value your intervention and realise that you are by their side, wanting and supporting their success. Make it personal for you too.

5 Evaluate progress – Hold regular stewardship interviews to ensure they are on track. Be a cheerleader for their successes, big and small.

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