I don’t like the word discipline. I’ll tell you why in a few moments.

Discipline denotes that some behaviour or action is unacceptable either in the work place or in your life. Left unchecked, the unacceptable behaviour or action can escalate and cause very serious damage to relationships. Ignoring the disruption only makes the situation worse.

Many people will make a quick judgment and confront the person with what they believe are problem causing behaviours or actions. The receiver of this judgment or challenge will often become defensive and attempt to use unaccountable responses to what seems to be a personal attack.

There are two flaws in this scenario.

The first flaw is that what is perceived by the judger may not be the entire story and so premature judgment can be absolutely wrong. The second flaw is that the judgment may seem to be made according to the judger ‘s personal values and standards. When this is perceived, the interaction becomes a personal judgment that can become threatening.

Perception Flaw:

A person can never perceive a situation and be 100% sure that they know what is going on. Our sense limitations, unique world view, and past experiences all cloud and mask the truth about everything we view. It is therefore essential that a person take the time to gather more information from other reliable sources to create a more complete understanding of the situation.

The best source is the person engaging in the undesirable behaviour. Use an “I” message and describe the behaviour, state the value or standard you believe it violates, and simply say: “Tell me about it.” Then listen to gain a more complete understanding of what is going on.

Personal Standard Flaw:

The worst thing you can do is use your un-communicated and therefore unknown personal standards, expectations, or values to place judgment and blame on another person. It will often be perceived as a personal attack and cause undesirable responses.

In the work place, use the written company values statement as the standard. Compare the behaviour to the company values and see if it violates one or more of those values. It will nearly always violate several values.

Now the judgment and request for corrective action is derived from the company values and not unknown personal standards or expectations. If your company doesn’t have written values, then take the time to draft a value statement.

In your personal life, know your values, write them down, and communicate them to those people in your life who may be subject to your judgments.

With an accurate perception of the unwanted situation and comparing it to pre-established written values, expectations, and standards, corrective actions can be more effectively established and communicated without adverse and damaging reactions.

Why don’t I like the word discipline? With pre-established written and effectively communicated values, expectations, and standards, people will be very aware of whether they are in compliance. When some behaviour or action appears to be out of compliance, then our job becomes one of making the perpetrator aware of the discrepancy, encouraging them to become compliant, and possibly engaging in training to develop the new desired behaviour.

The operative word here is TRAINING. Non-compliance should have clear written pre-established consequences. Not working or living in compliance in a repetitive manner then has a more serious consequence such as leaving the company or in personal life not being able to drive the family car for a month.

Evaluate your own technique of calling attention to unwanted behaviours and actions at work and in your personal life. Where do you need to improve your process? Take the actions necessary to become more effective at administering discipline or better said training to meet values, expectations, and standards.

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