Types of Indiscipline in the Workplace

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Don't encourage rogue behavior and indiscipline by ignoring misbehaving workers.
Don't encourage rogue behavior and indiscipline by ignoring misbehaving workers. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

In the ideal workplace, employees follow company policies and maintain high standards of professional behavior. Although many employees will strive toward these goals, chances are that you occasionally face problem workers lacking discipline. Indiscipline in the workplace can be disruptive to productivity and profit, so it must be identified and addressed immediately. Identify different types of indiscipline in the workplace to help eliminate misconduct problems before they develop into lasting bad habits.

Direct

Indiscipline in the workplace can be direct and noticeable, causing discomfort to managers and co-workers because of its sometimes confrontational or aggressive nature. Employees may make loud, disparaging remarks about supervisors, or saunter into work half an hour late. Other examples include not calling to report an absence ahead of time, using profane language, behaving unprofessionally with customers or blatantly defying orders from employers. These behaviors set a bad example to other workers, undermine the authority of supervisors and create a sometimes-scary work environment. Don’t be drawn into confrontations with aggressive employees; document behaviors and then dismiss these problematic workers if appropriate. Chances are, you don’t want them around.

Indirect

Indiscipline in the workplace can also be more indirect and less noticeable but still problematic. Examples of indirect indiscipline might include working sluggishly to avoid taking on new assignments, encouraging coworker misconduct with laughter, or agreeing with constructive criticism but then not applying suggestions to work quality or productivity. Indirect discipline can be tricky in that it’s harder to pinpoint and managers may be reluctant to intervene for seemingly small problems. These can grow into bigger problems, however. Managers can avoid ungrounded accusations by first asking employees to explain behaviors. For example, state, “After our conversation last week I was under the impression that you were going to try another strategy, but I haven’t noticed any changes. Explain how you’ve incorporated my suggestions.”

Unwitting

Workplace indiscipline can also be unwitting in that employees don’t know or haven’t been informed of expectations and professional standards. For example, perhaps employees routinely take personal calls or update social networking accounts on company time because other workers appear to be doing the same thing. Unless your company handbook prohibits such activities, it may not be clear to workers that you view this as misconduct. Provide employees with detailed handbooks outlining discipline expectations, including consequences for infractions. Employee trainings and workshops can also emphasize expectations.

Approved

Another type of workplace indiscipline includes unwanted activities and behaviors that aren’t commented upon by managers or supervisors, sending mixed messages to employees about expectations. For example, perhaps the company handbook clearly states that profane language and discriminatory comments are prohibited in the workplace. But managers may look the other way or even participate in conversations grounded in foul language, letting employees know that this type of misconduct is acceptable in the workplace despite stated company rules. To eliminate this type of indiscipline, apply consistency to discipline guidelines so that managers, supervisors and employers must adhere to the same expectations as employees.

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