Effective Punishment in the Workplace

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Negative behaviors on the part of employees can lower morale and productivity. Some behaviors, such as theft and drinking on the job, are serious enough to warrant immediate termination, while others need to be addressed before they become serious. If an employer must discipline an employee because of negative behaviors such as constant lateness, the employer should communicate clearly with the employee and follow an established procedure to lower the risk of the behavior happening again or the employee becoming resentful.

Give Specific Feedback

If you must punish a worker for a particular negative behavior, you should communicate to the worker exactly what it was he did that merited punishment, as well as give him specific alternative behaviors you would like to see instead. Being specific helps the worker understand the reason you reacted as you did and stops him from replacing one negative behavior with another after leaving your office.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement such as praise and tangible rewards for appropriate work behavior is more effective in directing employee behavior than punishing employees for negative behavior, according to "the Wichita Business Journal." If your only interaction with your employees is negative, they will fear you, which can interfere with their productivity. If you reward employees regularly for good behavior, however, they will be motivated to behave appropriately and will be more productive because the work environment is more positive.

Have Standard Policy

Have a standard disciplinary policy in place with escalating consequences up to termination if an employee's behavior does not improve. Give an employee a verbal warning about a particular negative behavior, followed by a written warning after the next infraction. If the behavior continues after the written warning, suspension and eventually job termination may follow. Explain the policy clearly in the employee manual, and stick to the procedure. This helps employees understand the rules; in addition, it allows you to treat employees as adults rather than wayward children who lose privileges for bad behavior.

Avoid Removing Privileges

Some employers punish employees for negative behaviors by assigning unpleasant tasks, requiring them to work the least desirable shift or refusing to allow them to take vacation time. These types of disciplinary actions may be ineffective, as negative attention from supervisors may actually reinforce negative behavior, according to the "Wichita Business Journal," and the University of British Columbia states that these actions should not be used. Employees may resent their bosses or feel infantalized by such actions, which leaves them unmotivated to do their best work. In addition, some of these actions may be illegal, depending on your state's employment laws.

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