Managing Team Discipline In the Workplace

How to enforce discipline in the workplace


It is important for the manager to maintain discipline within his area of responsibility. Without the discipline of the workforce, results will not always be positive and costs will be affected due to the increased effort to perform tasks.

Although South African Labour Laws are outdated and the weight of it diluted by corruption, greed and deliberate ignorance. But it is still possible for the manager to apply the basic principles of success.

Unionization has changed the face of workforce discipline and it does not help to be just a manager with excellent management skills. It is my opinion that all managers must have some form of HR qualification that makes them aware of their rights in conjunction with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 and The Labour Relations Act (LRA) of 1995.

I just wish that government will make it compulsory for business owners to have basic qualifications in these acts before issuing a business license to so many business owners wants to enforce their own interpretation of the law.

This makes life very difficult for managers who must now balance what is required by law with what the boss wants. This situation weakens the manager's ability to control discipline as the worker will always get away with it and the manager left standing as the fool. It also affects productivity in the workplace causing monetary losses.


In the workplace, there are two main types of disciplinary transgressions that are common and this is:
  • Misconduct 
  • Poor work performance 
Misconduct is the behavior and attitude of the employee towards the rules and policies of the company and has nothing to do with performance.


As a manager, you can make life easier for yourself by ensuring that employees are well trained and fully aware of what is required of him from you and your company. To ensure that misconduct does not become an issue it is essential that: 

  • Company Policies and Standard Operating Procedures are in place, fair and ethical 
  • The employee was inducted and made aware of these policies and procedures 
  • The policies and procedures are available to the employee at any time for further reference 
  • Management and supervisory personnel are aware of the contents of the policies and procedures 
  • Ensure that middle and senior management is trained on regular basis 
  • The manager who is responsible must be in charge of his area and not his superiors 
  • Management lead by example and discipline is measured out equally and consistent 

Poor work performance only focuses on how the employee performs against his key performance areas and the standards set to achieve his goals.

Some principles must be applied in the workplace so that poor performance can be detected quickly and dealt with efficiently before the problem reoccur or affect other parts of the process.

  • Make sure standards are set for each function or process 
  • Make sure the employee knows what is expected of him/her 
  • The standards set must be realistic and consistent with the process 
  • Daily measurement must be done 
  • Employee must be informed of his achievement against the standard on a daily basis 
  • Be consistent and fair 


Once poor work performance is detected the employee must be notified and the problem addressed in writing as per the company disciplinary procedures. Once you take this step you have to monitor and mentor the employee into rectifying his performance.

As a manager, you must realize that the disciplinary process is not punishment but merely the start of a process in developing your staff into a super performance team. Unfortunately once again there are many top post consignees that use the disciplinary system as a way to rid themselves of tough employees whom they are unable to mentor or "swing" to their way of thinking without the effort.

These are the guys that end up in Labour Court and cost companies more money than an underperforming employee. This is normally a sign of inexperience and just a total lack of management skills.

On the same page, part of the company's Disciplinary Procedure is the Grievance Procedure which enables an employee to highlight dissatisfaction with specific issues that are work or process related.

This is an excellent tool to be used and good management skills will enable the manager to be in touch with the thoughts of his workforce and how to find solutions that would normally stay dormant and become a bigger issue.

The inexperienced or ignorant manager sees this as negative criticism and unfortunately so many HR consultants have found ways to ignore these issues. If you get too many grievances as a manager you are doing something wrong and you will have to pinpoint the problem and develop even more skills to overcome this.

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