Book Review: Discipline Without Punishment

Submitted by jroos on Tue, 06/07/2011 - 20:54

"Discipline Without Punishment" turns the traditional progressive-discipline system into something that can truly turn performance issues around rather than just serving as a vehicle for documenting poor performance. I think it codifies into a system some things that good managers do by nature.

The most noticeable difference between the traditional system and DWP is the Decision Making Leave. Rather than the normal second to last step of suspension without pay, DWP uses a suspension with pay called the Decision Making Leave. The leave is for a single day. During that time the employee is being paid to think about whether he really wants to work for the organization. On the work day following the suspension, he must return with a decision to either solve the performance problem or to quit and find more suitable employment.

In implementing the Decision Making Leave at Frito Lay, the author found a number of positive effects:

  • It allows us to demonstrate good faith
  • It transforms anger into guilt.
  • It eliminates the need to “save face” with coworkers upon return to work.
  • It make it easier for the supervisor.
  • It reduces hostility and the risk of workplace violence.
  • It removes money as an issue.
  • It increases defensibility if the employee is later terminated.
  • It is consistent with the values of being a fair employer and a desirable place to work.
  • The climate was right to make the change.

Another key difference between DWP and traditional progressive discipline is that they formalize positive contacts where good behavior is reinforced. The system tries to make things more positive overall. Rather than oral reprimands, they have oral reminders. Written reprimands become written reminders. Supervisors are encouraged to invest time into positive performance just as much or more than they spend time on correcting poor performance.

Discipline Without Punishment emphasizes that termination does not have to be the final step. It is only a step that is taken when disciplinary action has failed. This should encourage supervisors to more readily use the initial steps to avoid having to get that far.

I think that such a system would not only go a long way toward turning performance around, it would also be a change that could bring about a more positive atmosphere. Any organization in need of or exploring changes to their disciplinary process should seriously consider this approach.

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