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Discipline, Performance Management, and Employee and Labor Relations

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 2808 words Published: 27th Feb 2020

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Strategic Human Resources initiatives regarding employee and labor relations that positively impact organizational effectiveness include discipline, performance management, and employee and labor relations.

Employee Discipline

Companies are taking a progressive approach to employee discipline. The strategy is called “discipline without punishment.”  and it is for when informal conversations with employees fail to resolve negative performance and work issues like truancy or negative attitudes. Organizations are abandoning warnings, demotions, reprimands, and unpaid disciplinary suspensions. They now require employees to take personal responsibility for their behavior and commit to positive change if they are to continue their employment.

The results of discipline without punishment have been positive.  Dick Grote, a management consultant who specializes in the field of employee performance improvement notes in his book, Discipline Without Punishment:

  • GE facilities that have adopted positive discipline reported written warnings/reminders decreasing from thirty-nine to twelve in a two-year period.
  • Verizon reduced grievances by 63% and disciplinary actions by 86 in a one-year period.
  • Tampa Electric Company reduced sick-leave hours used per employee from 66.7 to 31.2 over an eight years period. This reduction resulted in TELCO saving $2,662,848 over those eight years.

The Texas Department of Mental Health had their turnover rate drop from 48.5% to 18.5% percent in a two-year period. (Grote, pg. 1.)

Many companies have problems with the traditional approach to discipline that has caused them to adopt “discipline without punishment” strategies. Examples include:

  • Traditional disciplinary actions create a “labor vs. management” or “us vs. them” climate. This interaction is counterproductive to building a culture of organizational teamwork.
  • Traditional approaches force supervisor to be the “bad guy.”
  • It is not a corrective action. Many supervisors don’t begin the discipline process until they want to create a “paper trail” that can justify termination. (Grote, pg. 1.)

Not only does the traditional approach create an “us against them” mentality, but it also doesn’t foster employee engagement/commitment. Organizations need employee “buy in” if they are to be competitive, which requires commitment, not obedience.  People can be punished into compliance, but they can’t be punished into commitment. A popular meme relating to workplace environment depicts some skull and crossbones and reads “the beatings will continue until morale improves” This perfectly sums up the oxymoronic nature of traditional workforce disciplinary strategies.

How Does Positive Discipline Work?

Positive discipline begins by discussions what the employee is doing well and then transitions to performance improvement in the form of coaching/ counseling. The first steps of formal disciplinary action are a reminder, followed by a second reminder reiterating the reasons for the first. Documentation of the second warning gets placed in the employee’s personnel folder. The term “reminder” differs from the traditional “warning” or “reprimand.” The supervisor is reminding the worker there is an issue with current performance vs. performance expected.

A third step involves Decision Making Leave. Employees are given a paid disciplinary suspension for one day to reflect on their behavior and to consider their corrective response. If the employee agrees to change, a meeting with a supervisor is scheduled to discuss steps to improve performance or behavior.

Organizations that have adopted the decision-making leave process report significant benefits.  Based on the research cited in Grote’s book:

  • It sends the message that “we’re serious when we say we want the individual to think through whether this is the right job for them
  • This time to reflect turns anger into guilt prompting the employee to take responsibility for their behavior and performance.
  • Decision-making leave allows supervisors to handle serious disciplinary problems without alienating the worker.
  • It takes money off the table. Employees think about the requirements of their job and positive change, rather than the financial burden.
  • It justifies terminations. Performance-based discussions combined with decision-making lay the groundwork for proper separation. (Grote, pg. 1.)

Organizations that have adopted a positive discipline approach report that issues are resolved quicker supervisor stress levels decrease and challenges to discharge action and unemployment claims are significantly reduced.  Moving to discipline without punishment system has become accepted as a best practice in public and private organizations.

Performance Management

Employee Performance reviews support workforce operational decisions regarding career development, compensation, promotions, or terminations. Performance reviews include specific performance expectations for employees and informal/formal feedback from management. Implementing performance management processes can enhance the effectiveness of other organizational systems including:

  • Strategic planning. Workforce planning models use performance management measurements to determine the “quality” of the workforce and retention rates.
  • Individual/team development. An individual development plan used in combination with a performance review process can assist employees in setting career goals.

[Retrieved from http://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingemployeeperformance.aspx]

Effective performance management systems include three elements: goal setting, performance improvement process, and a performance review.

Element one: goal setting

Goal setting is establishing employee objectives and a specific period to achieve those objectives. Individual employee performance goals must align with organizational goals.

Common goals include:

Job description goals. These goals are everyday functional or operational goals accomplished continuously/daily by the employee until the job description changes. Examples include financial, process- or system-oriented goals and customer service oriented goals.

Project goals. Goals based on the achievement of a project objective. Project goals are “what” needs to be accomplished. [Performance Reviews 101 – Slideshare. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/hflaherty/performance-reviews-101]

Behavioral goals. Goals based on behaviors. Behavioral objectives are “how” things get accomplished. [Performance Reviews 101 – Slideshare. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/hflaherty/performance-reviews-101]

Stretch goals. Goals that are especially challenging to are referred to as stretch goals. Stretch goals are used to expand the skills, and abilities of high-potential employees. [Performance Reviews 101 – Slideshare. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/hflaherty/performance-reviews-101]

Performance Management Systems should implement SMART goals. SMART goals refer to goals being:

  • Specific-understandable, clear, concise
  • Measurable-verifiable and results-oriented, able to supply recordable data
  • Attainable-unrealistic goals set employees up for failure and are counterproductive
  • Relevant-irrelevant goals will not achieve “buy-in” from employees or aid management in any way
  • Time-bound-contains specific milestones and timeframes to achieve them

[Performance Reviews 101 – Slideshare. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://www.slideshare.net/hflaherty/performance-reviews-101]

Performance management goals should also be inclusive. Both manager and employee should work together to develop goals that ensure understanding of the objectives, and commitment to accomplishing them. Goals should be documented, reviewed (by employee and management), and should continuously evolve as the organizational goals change.

Effective goals statements include:

  • Increase revenue by fifteen percent by the end of the fiscal year 2019.
  • Decrease employee turnover twenty-one percent to fifteen percent in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Reduce shipping expenses by ten percent as compared with the prior year’s actual costs.

The HR department is key to the efficient administration of an organizations performance management system.

Workplace grievances

Workplace grievances are claims that an employee has been adversely affected by the harmful or unfair application of written policies or collectively bargained agreements. When addressing complaints, employers implement their organization’s written grievance procedure. A grievance procedure is a form of dispute resolution that employees use to have their claims resolved.

Union workers file grievances, by the process outlined in their collective bargaining agreement. Union grievance procedures are systematic in structure and involve several steps beginning with an informal review. The informal discussion is the first stage in the process, and it may include a meeting with the supervisor, the union employee, and the union steward, to discuss the grievance. A union steward, also known as a union representative or shop steward, is an employee of an organization or company but is also a labor union official who represents and defends the interests of his or her fellow employees.

[Grievance Procedures: What are the steps typically found in a grievance procedure? Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hrqa/pages/aresolutionformanagementandemployees.aspx]

Three outcomes usually occur at this stage of the process:

  • The supervisor and the union representative may determine that no valid grievance exists.
  • The claim is resolved.
  • The problem is unresolved to, and grievance will move forward to the next step in the process.

Subsequent information compiled includes management reviews, written responses, witness statements, records/log collection, and appeals. If the grievance is unresolved at the company level, arbitration may be the final step. An arbitrator is a third party chosen to settle the dispute, especially one formally empowered to examine the facts and decide the issue. This arbitrator is hired individually or through an arbitration service by the employer to hear both sides of the case and resolve the grievance. Because many employees now sign an employment arbitration agreement when hired, the decision of the arbitrator is generally binding on both parties.

[Grievance Procedures: What are the steps typically found in a grievance procedure? Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hrqa/pages/aresolutionformanagementandemployees.aspx]

Nonunion organizations usually have a similar process to the formal grievance steps associated with collective bargaining agreements. Employees can also file complaints with a federal agency such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state fair employment agency. Complaints filed with the EEOC must fall under laws and regulations enforced by the agency, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Step One:

Discuss Complaint with Immediate Supervisor.

Nonunion employees submit grievances to their immediate supervisor. Grievances should be resolved informally at the lowest level in management hierarchy whenever possible. Informal grievance options improve the reporting process by accelerating resolution. Grievances can range significantly in severity. Informal reporting allows the timely resolution of lower level workplace complaints. If informal measures don’t work, the formal grievance process begins.

Step Two:

Submit complaint procedure form to an HR low-mid level representative for review by a second-level supervisor

If the employee feels their grievance wasn’t resolved informally by their immediate supervisor, they will submit a formal written complaint. The employee should prepare a Complaint Procedure Form and provide it to a Human Resources representative. Complaint procedure forms improve the grievance process by ensuring the same records exist for all complaints filed. Variation in reporting procedures can lead to an inconsistent understanding of the process by the employee. The HR rep will review the claim and copy it to the second-level supervisor and the immediate supervisor and schedule meetings between the employee, the second-level supervisor, and the Consultant to discuss the grievance.

The HR rep in conjunction with the second-level supervisor will provide a written decision to all parties involved; If the complaint is unresolved, the employee may proceed to step three.

Step Three:

Submit a complaint to HR Director level representative and third-level manager.

If the employee is not satisfied with the Step Two decision, they may submit it to the Human Resources Director for review by the director/department manager.  The director department manager will issue a written decision. When employees know their grievances can be submitted to a director level manager, it further legitimizes the process. This third step improves the process especially if the complaint is about lower to mid-level management.

Step Four:

Submit complaint procedure form for a final appeal to the appropriate level

If the employee is not satisfied with the Step Three decision, they may submit the complaint to the appropriate level. Step four depends heavily on the size of the organization and it executive/management structure. When executive level leadership communicates their commitment and availability in the grievance procedure, employees buy-in to the process.

[Grievance Procedures: What are the steps typically found in a grievance procedure? Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hrqa/pages/aresolutionformanagementandemployees.aspx]

Recently several top executives at Americas largest operations have been fired from their executive positions due to workplace grievances. Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Co.), Les Moonves (CBS), Travis Kalenick(Uber) to name a few. A successful grievance procedure must be fully supported form the “top-down” no matter the size of the organization.  An effective grievance procedure enables employees to resolve issues of concern effectively. Grievance procedures also help employers correct problems before they become serious issues or result in litigation.


Grote, R. (2014, August 1). Discipline Without Punishment—At Last. Retrieved November 2, 2018, from https://hbr.org/1985/07/discipline-without-punishment-at-last

(2012, May 11). Grievance Procedures: What are the steps typically found in a grievance procedure? Retrieved November 4, 2018, from  https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/aresolutionformanagementandemployees.aspx

(2018, September 6) Managing Employee Performance. Retrieved November 2, 2018, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingemployeeperformance.aspx


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