Saturday 19th January 11:02

Discipline: Sensible Rules

sensiblerules_142Just as in society at large, where morals, laws and accepted ways of behaviour are necessary for people to live together, so, in the microcosm of society that an organisation is, similar codes of conduct are necessary to ensure freedom with responsibility and individuality with the common good. In times of unprecedented change, the art of managing is to find ways to encourage people to express themselves and deliver an outstanding service within a framework of order and discipline.

1. Rules of Behaviour

Rules are the "musts" in an organisation. They are the collection of behaviours thought necessary to ensure the best ways of working together and complying with laid-down practices.

Rules may be either explicitly expressed or implicitly understood. Explicitly expressed rules include...
· compliance with procedures and regulations, eg you must not operate machines without guards in place
· compliance with conditions of work, eg you must be at work two minutes before starting time
· compliance with best practice, eg you must keep work areas clean.

Implicitly understood rules are mainly based on moral imperatives of right and wrong, eg you must not steal, you must not lie, you must not cheat.

2. Sensible Rules

Sensible rules are those that are acceptable to most people and so not likely to give rise to disciplinary problems. Sensible rules are those which are...

· workable. Rules should be relevant, realistic and enforceable.
· agreed. Rules should be part of the initial terms of working, new rules should be agreed through the normal process of consultation.
· positively expressed. Rules should be stated in positive terms so that preferred behaviours are indicated, rather than negative terms.
· reasonable. Rules that have explanations are more likely to be accepted than those without.
· minimal. The fewer rules the better for both supervision and staff.
· widely publicised and followed through.

3. Improving Standards

The aim of all people management is to encourage people to work to consistently high standards. To accomplish this, you need to...

· let everyone know what normal standards are but encourage individuals to perform to their own personal best
· relate the importance of reaching standards to one of the following: customer service; organisational efficiency; personal development
· where people fail to meet minimum standards regularly, consider training, coaching and instructing before considering discipline
· use the SMART mnemonic to specify standards: ie Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bounded
· practise the highest standards yourself and let others see you doing so.

Your aim in workplace discipline is to get people to discipline themselves so that you don't have to do the disciplining for them. On the way to that ideal situation, rules and standards are necessary, with two provisos: one, that there should be as few rules as possible; two, that the rules you do have are managed well and fairly. 

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