discipline in the family and the workplace

Ever tried thinking about the similarities of “Office discipline” and child discipline?

There is this sort of “unwritten protocol” that I think every company, whether you call the organization heirarchical or non-heirarchical (which, actually, doesn’t make any difference to me), in dealing, or instilling if you will, discipline to what the big bosses call the subordinates. Since in every organization there are team leads/supervisors/coach or whatever others call them, giving discipline or even giving instructions to groups are the respective group’s leader. If a leader of another group has an issue with another leader’s subordinate (I apologize for not being politically correct but this will make my illustration simpler, I guess), he/she must approach the subordinate’s leader to discuss the issue. It is then the responsibility of that leader to get the side of his subordinate and investigate the situation before issuing a memo or some other disciplinary action. In this way, no one is stepping on someone else’s responsibility because handling a team and making sure that they are following the rules (and all that) is the responsibility of the group’s leader. he/she should not let anyone interfere (unless of course, it is the higher management or worse, an intervention is needed for some reason) in taking care of his group/team.

Let me make myself a little bit clearer. Let’s say TL A has subordinates A1, A2 and A3. TL B has subordinates B1, B2 and B3. Now, TL A noticed that B3 has attendance issues. Not because TL A noticed it first mean that he will be the one to confront B3 directly and give him disciplinary action without discussing this issue with TL B, who is responsible for B3.

In my own opinion, this scenario is quite wrong in every angle that I see. First, TL A stepped on someone else’s responsibility, TL B’s. Second, TL A’s interference will most likely demotivate B3 by doing such action (when in fact, a lot of companies are trying so hard to motivate people due to high attrition rate these days). Third, the main issue here is disrespect – to TL B and even to B3.

Let’s come up with another scenario – the scenario which I think is should be followed or even implemented. TL B noticed that A2 is sleeping during working hours. TL B approaches TL A and discusses this issue with him. TL A then discusses the issue brought at attention by TL B. Then, TL A decides the right disciplinary action to be issued to A2.

In this way, you don’t overstep on someone’s area of responsibility and at the same time, you don’t disrespect the other leader and somewhat demotivate the the subordinate by the rash action.

This also applies with small issues within your own team. You find your team member showing some pictures to another team member and somehow you find their chatter quite distracting, this is no issue that needs to be raised to the higher ups (meaning the management). I consider this a non-issue in the higher ups. Instead, why don’t you, a team lead, talk to your team member in private (take note, IN PRIVATE), and explain that the chatter is somehow creating a distraction in the workplace and it needs to either stop or toned down. Make sure that you still say it in a constructive way (you still want your member’s respect so don’t go acting too superior). Team Leads out there, How easy is that???

I’ve actually tried saying all these one time when there was an issue some where, some time ago (no need to know the details) but I wasn’t too sure if they really understood what I was trying to explain here. It took me quite a while to compare this to child discipline and parenting.

Let’s look at the same scenario in a familial scene. You are a parent and you discipline your child in a certain way. Let’s say for the sake of example, you spank your child. Now, a co-parent (say, the parent of your child’s friend), has her own way to discipline her child and her way is to just talk to her child. Both your kids are playing when you saw that your child’s friend was destroying the plants. You don’t go dragging the other kid and spank him just because he is doing something wrong, now do you? You inform the child’s parent and it is the responsibility of his parent to take disciplinary action to her own child.

If you go ahead and spank the other child without even informing his parent, then that would be overstepping your responsibility and disrespecting the other parent in doing so.

I hope I’m making myself clear so far. This is just a simple scenario just so I could give a clear explanation of what I am trying to say (which I think is not that clear at all).

When you look at how the workplace functions, it isn’t actually that much different from a family. In a workplace, rules and policies are set and a certain standard of quality is meant to be achieved. In a family, there are rules and regulations set about by the parents for the kids to follow and these are the standards that are being set to make sure that the family values are instilled in their kids. In a workplace, employees have basic salaries and are given benefits and incentives for jobs well done. In a family, kids are given allowance and even an additional money and/or other gifts for best behavior or good grades. In a workplace, an employee is given a disciplinary action if he deviated from policy. In a family, a child is being discplined if he did something that is against the values being instilled in him.

There are actually many things that I can further discuss but I guess my whole point here is about respecting someone else’s position. Not every leader has the same kind of leadership. There is no reason to compare how leaders are handling their own teams or organizations or companies even, because no one’s leadership is better than anyone else. You can only determine that you are doing the best you can as a leader by first making sure that you are not overstepping someone else’s boundaries and being disrespectful. Make sure that you evaluate the actions you are about to make and always ask yourself if a certain action will be seen as disrespectful or will cause disharmony among people. Being a good leader is not by being self-righteous. You can figure the rest yourself.

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