Learn the definition of employee discipline, formulas used in disciplining employees and examples of rules.

Employee discipline implies a behavior that concurs with the set rules and procedures in the company. Employees are required to follow company policies and procedures when they are executing their duties. Employee discipline can also mean the action taken when an employee does not follow the set rules and regulations. If an employee fails observe the set rules, disciplinary action is taken on him or her.


An organization should have disciplinary policies and procedures which it uses as a guideline when taking disciplinary action on an employee. In most cases, employee discipline issues are dealt with on a case by case basis. The disciplinary measures imposed on employees may differ depending on how serious the problem is, whether it is a repeat violation, nature of violation, and how a company has been handling discipline issues.

How can a company ensure successful discipline?

For discipline to be successful, a company needs to have rules that it communicates to its employees. It should also include the consequences of failing to adhere to these rules. Reinforcing the rules should be consistent, impersonal and done promptly while employees who adhere to the rules should be recognized.

What are these rules and policies?

An organization should have set rules and policies which it should ensure that the employees are aware of. These include

  • Rules relating to work hours, tardiness, use of equipment and facilities, absences, grooming and sick days.
  • Job procedures and requirements as well as standards of performance.
  • Legal requirements such as safety regulations and health code.
  • Policies regarding disciplinary action.

Employee discipline formula

When disciplining employees, a company can either take the positive approach promoted by theory Y or negative approach promoted by theory x. Each of these discipline approaches also referred to as progressive discipline uses different formulas.

Negative approach and the four stage formula

The negative approach incorporates punishment when disciplining employees who break the rules. It uses a four stage formula that comprises of oral warning, written warning, punishment, and termination. However, instilling fear and punishing employees tend to de-motivate employees and therefore not a recommended form of employee discipline.

Positive approach and the three stage formula

Disciplining employees can take a three stage formula of providing an oral warning, written warning, and dismissal. It does not incorporate punishment but uses corrective measures. An employee is informed about the indiscipline and then corrected. The company then continually educates the employees while providing corrective training.

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