Employee Discipline and Misconduct Dhananjaya Jayakody “Management is the process of efficiently getting activities completed with and

through other people. The Management process includes planning, organizing, leading and controlling activities that take place to accomplish objectives. Any definition on Management generally includes goals, limited resources and people. In the above definition goals are implied in “getting activities completed” limited resources are implied in “efficiently” and people are implied in “with and through other people “(De Zenso and Robbins). Every organisation includes people. The people factor is considered to be the most valuable out of all the other resources. Acquiring people, developing their skills, motivating them to exert a high standard of performance or behavior and to have their commitment to the achievement of organisation goals are considered as some of the main functions of Human Resource Management. This is also identified as obtaining the services of people, preparing them, activating them and retaining them. The topic under discussion is also about, activating and retaining or not retaining people in the organisation. The standard of performance the company expects from the worker is “Discipline”. Performance is also a kind of behaviour. A kind of behaviour that is expected by the organization. If this expected behaviour is not up to the standard expected by the organisation, it is difficult to achieve its objectives. Assume that employee performance is a function of his skill and motivation. (P = S X M). The expected performance could be achieved through improving either the skills through training and development or through increasing the motivation off the employee . Perhaps through combined increase of the two. It generally works .But there a exceptions to the rule. Some workers will not provide the accepted behavior even if they have the skill and motivation. Then an external disciplinary force is used to influence the employee to behave in a accepted manner. Eg. An employee who is habitually late (a behaviour which is not accepted) is punished (external disciplinary force), so that his behaviour is modified. This is an issue that involves discipline, misconduct and punishment. Attracting and retaining the right persons to the organisation is important to Human Resources Management. Similarly retaining only the right persons in it is also equally important. What is meant by the right persons in the present context are people who are committed to the organizational goals. People who observe its rules and regulations, standards, norms, people who comply with the culture of the organisation, and behaves in a manner expected by the Organisation. Those who cannot do so needs to be reformed, through positive disciplinary actions. Failing which they need to be even terminated from service. Having the right kind of people, in the right number, in right places, at the right time to efficiently and effectively accomplish the tasks allotted to them in order to achieve objectives is part of Human Resource Planning (HRP). Similarly, reforming and / or rejecting the wrong people is a function of Human Resource disciplinary control. And also part of the control function of management (see P.O.M.C approach to mangement)


written These are expressed standard of behaviour or performance. restraint. 000 employees. held that it was two harsh a punishment and that the Circular was enforced discriminately. and wrong doing The standard behaviour expected by an employee is generally found in the “letter of Appointment”. A situation where there is no issues. For our purpose we will be using the term misconduct. they are absent without authority or in excess of their leave entitlement. The most suitable definition would be “the conduct. violation of rules. The Court of Appeal found no grounds that the Circular was applied discriminately and termination was up held. It is given in black and white. misconduct etc. they are habitually late for work. they quarrel and abuse their fellow workers. order.Some of the employees in an organization behave themselves. They are self disciplined. They behave in a responsible manner. they may disobey and ignore the action of the superiors and break safety regulations. unwritten or implied standard of behaviour expected by an employee DISCIPLINE The word discipline is synonymous with the words regulation. Discipline can also be identified with orderly conduct of employees or the behaviour according to the performance rules of the organisation. There were around 15. a wrong. These we call breach of discipline. They basically behave contrary to the expected behaviour. ( De Cenzo and Robbins 1999) 2 . Court of Appeal held that the Circular should be strictly applied in order to maintain discipline among such a large group of employees. “Disciplinary Code” “Employee Hand book” “Notices” “Circulars” “Memos” etc. They voluntarily offer the expected standard of behaviour or performance. But there are also. He was terminated. which is required for an organisation to function in an orderly and legal manner. control. They are the majority. expected by the organization” ( Silva 1995) An organisation expects a certain manner of behaviour from their employees. The organization expect the workers to act according to the rules and regulations of the Organization. Discipline is simply “good behaviour”. chaos. disordered. these right kind of people we also have a minority of the employees who misbehaves and create disciplinary issues to the management. eg.T. Misconduct also means bad behaviour. obedience and authority. When employees conduct themselves in accordance with the organization’s rules and standards of acceptable behaviour. they even might be under the influence of liquor during working hours. mis behaviour. The term discipline refers to a condition in the organisation. disobedience. etc. The L. Like in the above case a circular lays down the rule. In the case of Sri Lankan Ports Authority Vs Balin Silva A workman was absent on 3 earlier occasions and duly warned and punished in terms of the Circular. confusion. But as opposed. It is the expected standard of behaviour of employees. misconduct.

in order to accomplish organizational goals and objectives. Work should commence at 8. When there is a violation. This is a novel concept introduced to administer discipline effectively The objectives to be achieved through the EDM should be determined with a policy statement. A rule in the context of our topic means official instructions given by the organisation as to what an employee should do and should not do. together with a particular reason for having such a rule. He points out that objective of discipline is to encourage workers to behave in a sensible manner. If workman cannot settle their affairs peacefully it will eventually end in a breakdown or at least destruction the smooth flow of work in the work place “ As a part of the “controlling” function in Management. controlling in influencing all employees in the Organisation to achieve and maintain a standard of behaviour.15 A. should not do ) one writer has attributed such a behaviour as “Sensible behaviour” .Some refer Discipline as the practice of controlling the employees through strict laws and punishing them when they are violated. should do) smoking is prohibited within factory premises (undesired behaviour. To build a mutual co-operation amongst workers. There are many reasons why we should have discipline in an organization .It is required among other things for smooth and efficient functioning of an Organisation. it is important to have the employees involved as well. The judge in the case of The Ceylon General Workers Union Vs Wellawatte Spinning and Weaving Mills Limited observed that I quote “ I consider a quarrel among workman a serious matter and deserves the highest reprimand . to preserve organizations rules and regulations which are made to achieve objectives. The process has 8 steps. To co-ordinate different departments of the Organisation. Others identify it as a method of encouraging employees to behave in accordance with the standards created by the organization Discipline is also identified as training that is used to have organisation regulations enforced.M. daily (desired behaviour. for the health and safety of workers. promoting and maintaining employee discipline so that goals and objectives of the Organisation are accomplished”. Some Concepts related to discipline There are certain concepts that helps us to take decisions in relation to discipline Employee Disciplinary Management (EDM) “A systematic process of planning. Thereafter disciplinary violations are to be monitored there after. Then the rules and regulations expected to be complied by employees should be created. Once this is done it should be communicated to the workers.” “It is the systematic procedure of creating.. first you should see whether it is a minor or grave 3 . Eg. Then the punishment for each rule violation and the disciplining authority should be decided. To effectively use Human Resources. EDM includes the entire process from creating rules and regulations to finally punishing as and when it is required. It is also needed to regularize the behaviour of the employees.

i. This approach to punishment is not encouraged from a Human Resource Management point of view. Positive Approach The punishment is not personal. This is a discipline intended to remedy and prevent any future rule violation. The idea is to reform the workers on the presumption that employees are bound to make mistakes and that it is a common occurrence. A reactive approach. It rejects the misconduct not the employee.fighting or treating the injury after an accident. and also organizing training programmes. Preventive Discipline This is a discipline intended to prevent any rule violation. This is a ‘warning’. This approach to punishment is considered the way forward or the ideal in terms of Human Resource Management.By observing the after effects of touching a hot stove . The idea is to get revenge. The idea is to create a self-discipline among the employees and thereby promote them to behave in the manner expected by the Organisation. The result of touching a Hot Stove does not change From time to time there is a “consistency” of the result. it has the has the same effect. absenteeism and apathy. Entire EDM process should be reviewed and renewed from time to time. It is focused on the misconduct. It creates undesired effects such as conflict. It is focused on the employee and rejects him/her not the misconduct. This approach goes on the presumption that employees should not commit any breach of discipline. This is like preventing an accident or a fire. The”after” situation. humiliate and victimize him. There is basically two approaches to punishment. HR Department can help to create awareness through various communication mechanisms. 4 . The idea is to prevent such a breach happening in the future and to provide the employee an opportunity to correct his behaviour. The”before” situation. It will hurt . create unpleasantness to the workman. A proactive approach.e. Important features in this concept is creating employee “awareness” and have the employees participation when rules. This is like fire . on can learn certain important principles that could be adopted for EDM When one touches a Hot Stove.violation. If it is a minor violation. If it is a serious violation. They also can create a preventive disciplinary culture are some areas HR could get involved. Negative Approach The punishment is personal. the result is “instant – it burns. This is used a an external disciplinary force to modify behaviour or to obtain the desired behaviour. People know that if one touches a Hot Stove he /she burns up. regulations and standards are created . progressive discipline methods should be applied with counseling and informal discussions. have a disciplinary investigation and see whether the rule violation is true and the reasons behind it and finally decide on a punishment. Hot Stove Rule The in sight gained from this rule is widely used in employee discipline management. The end result of a person touching a Hot Stove and an employee being reprimanded is the same. Corrective Discipline This is a disciplinary action taken after a breach of a discipline or a misconduct is committed.

irrespective of the person. age. For example. In the case of The Ceylon Plantation Workers Union Vs Superintendent Baddegama Estate it was held that (Our courts have repeatedly held) the fact that an employee occupies an important position in his union doesn’t entitle him to any immunity from punishment or different treatment in the matter of punishment Progressive Discipline This is where. he should be dealt with on all three occasions. a lenient punishment is specified and thereafter if the rule violation is continuing gradually. counseling techniques are made use of. especially if two employees commit the same offence. Degree of the punishment should be in terms of the gravity of the offence. gender. An employee gets late after meals and it disrupts work . Instead of criticizing the bad behaviour on the first time you could say 5 . first warning. Communication of these are very important. punishment should not be “personal”.each time it is touched. Similarly. finally the result is not “personal”. Initially. it will give wrong signals to the workers. increasing the punishment. advising. Sandwich Model This is a tool used in constructively criticizing a worker. You communicate an undesired behaviour pattern in between communicating two desired behaviour or good behaviours pattern e. on three occasions. touches get burnt irrespective of. (if not he may even forget why he is punished as the time period between the misconduct and punishment widened) Employees must be ‘warned’ about the rules/regulations/standards to be observed and the punishments they will receive. . rather than skipping the first and the last. punishment following an act of misconduct should be “instant”. However. Here. second warning. Finally. termination . The employee is given an opportunity to correct his behaviour. one tries to identify the causal effect of the violation of a rule and then remedy such situation. initially. there will be burning. the Company could take steps to provide transport. age or statues This principle when applied to the disciplinary management process would mean that. try to relocate one or iron out the misunderstanding. in order to correct the offender e. There should be ‘consistency” in punishment. So that offender could relate the punishment to the offence. This sought of punishment is specified for minor offences. punishment should also be the same. if the causal effect of an employee being late for work regularly is due to transportation problem. if a person is charged with unauthorized absence. If the causal effect of a minor worker been absent is an abusive supervisor. Counseling Approach for Discipline Without immediately punishing the employee. The structure is like in a sandwich. seniority and the status in office. Similar offences should be punished.g. and only punishing the second offence. so that it would be better accepted.g. final warning. Further the “degree” of the burn depends on the duration you keep touching it.

disparity in relative skills. “if not you are our most productive worker” (Positive statement Criticism). It will also not preclude the sate in taking action against an officer for any other offence not covered by these definitions. “but you always report 15 to 30 minutes late after the lunch break that affects our operation” (Negative statement/criticism).Misdemeanor. Abuse. denial or neglect of known issues. or Out side activities. external environment. delinquency .Also it could be due to a person’s natural inclination to misconduct. These judgments identify Absence and Late Attendance. 27 of 1941 there are offences for which a fine of 5% could be levied. 6 . with the fulfillment of express or implied conditions of service or if it has a material bearing on the smooth and efficient working of the concern – Why does a person misconducts him or her self? It could be economic. etc conflict if not resolved lead to misconduct. refusal or failure to share information. according to the regulations issued under Wages Board Ordinance No. Shalimar Rope Works Ltd. disorganization. environment reasons . conflict of interest or values. psychological reasons. A Misconduct may arise in relation to either Attendance. misbehaviour. The Ecode specifies and defines certain acts of misconducts but states I quote “but this definitions should not be treated as a comprehensive list of offences. deviation from past practices. repotted at (1953) (z) LLJ 876”. and wrong doing stc As per the case of Shalimar Rope Works Mazdoor Union Vs. Negligence.Eg “Your punctuality is excellent” (positive statement/criticism ). breaking the point of tolerance. MISCONDUCT The word Misconduct is synonymous with the words . talking has been slow and a finalization of a solution slowed down. A misconduct in one organization might not be a misconduct in a another. “An act should be regarded as an act of misconduct if it is inconsistent. For eg. poor behavioral and interpersonal skills. example a manager is rude and abusive to his subordinates over a period of time and there have been many incidents reported but the management does nothing to check the situation) sudden provocation. individual styles.transgression bad behaviour. Assault. Disobedience. bad management (de Silva ) Amarasinhghe in his resent publication titled conflict at work states that causal factors for conflict includes talking has not helped in the past. But there are instance where the labour tribunal through judgments identified certain acts as misconducts. Dishonesty. On the JOB behaviours. Dishonesty and Drunkenness. Apart from these the certain regulations issued under various laws. Similar Provisions are found in the SOE Act. selfish interest. due to unsuitable working conditions. Hence it is difficult to list a complete list of misconducts. past experience can be the cause of a dispute. ulterior motives or malicious intent.

or outside the place of work but in relation to an officer’s subordinates. theft. the use of his official position or the exercise of his official functions for his own private advantage or the advantage of his friends or relatives. All these misconduct over lap each other. any act which brings his private interest into real conflict with his official duties. seniority. bribery. physical or other qualities that an officer is presumed to possess or to have developed for the efficient discharge of his duties. Dishonesty . relates to such matters as the betrayal of confidence enjoyed officially. Out side activities. to ensure that public funds are not wasted or public property damaged. It consists of failure due to indifference. ( see how it relates to On the JOB behaviours ) Lack of Integrity relates to acts or omission arising from motives of improper personal gain. The following definitions are from the E-Code and you could relate them to the four main sources Inefficiency may or may not arise from a lack of competence. temperamental. or other personal relationship in his office.. (see how it relates to On the JOB behaviours ) Incompetence arise from lack of the intellectual. the use of public property or the services of subordinates for private purposes. staff. acceptance of gifts or favours from members of the public or firms with whom an official dealings or on whom he is in a position to bestow some present or future favour. immorality of a type that becomes a public scandal or any other act which brings the Public Services or 7 . experience. professional or administrative incompetence. Improper conduct not connected with his official duties relates to such matters as habitual drunkenness. dishonesty. failure to supervise programmes. labour. suppression of documents or facts. disorderly behavior in public places. engaging in political activities where he is prohibited from doing so. forgery. etc. speaking in public or publishing articles on matters in which the officer is prohibited from expressing opinions in public. cheating. considering his position. acts of indiscretion in the place of work. doing anything that might seem to compromise his official position or any other act which demoralizes the Public Services or bring the Public Services or the office he holds into disrepute. etc. inciting his subordinates to disloyalty. inadvertence or other defects on the part of an officer to discharge the duties expected of him to reasonable standards. ( see how it relates to On the JOB behaviours/ Dishonesty) Improper Conduct when connected with official duties. ( see how it relates to On the JOB behaviours) Negligence is a neglect of the duties entrusted to him and would cover such matters as errors and mistakes arising from a lack of care or diligence. or incompetence in the handling of staff. the qualifications normally stipulated for recruitment to the post he holds. It could be technical. his age. any act which appears to bring his private interest into conflict with his public duties even if the conflict is not in fact real. concealment of the truth or portions of the truth in writing reports. fraud. However all these they could be slotted in to the disciplinary problems arising from Attendance. use of narcotic drugs. the level of responsibility at which he functions. On the JOB behaviours.Similarly there are separate misconducts laid down as applicable to co-operative workers.

jeering and humiliating an executive is a misconduct . refusal to carry out order. Late attendance Perera Vs The Insurance Corporation of Ceylon it was held that Repeated Unpunctuality is serious breach of duty Negligence . subordinates or members of the public. It was held in Equipment and Construction Company Vs Cooray that Refusal to obey reasonable orders is a misconduct Abuse . Assault. or Out side Activities ) Indiscipline relates to such matters as unpunctuality. rudeness whether to his superiors. It was held in Premadsa Rodrigo Vs Ceylon Petroleum Corporation The person issuing a relevant order must have the authority to do so . leaving office without permission etc. in the case of Lever Bros Eksath Kamkaru Samithiya Vs Lever Bros (Ceylon) . ( see how it relates to Dishonesty. ( see how it relates to On the JOB behaviours and Attendance) Misconduct From the case law (pl see pp 31-117 of Law of Dismissal by S. The machines should be attended to all the time if not there could be serious damage caused to the workers and property. Absent from work for a short period is not a misconduct. In the case of Bawa Crockery House Limited Vs Bhoumik the courts held that “ We fail to see how the absence of the workman for half a day without justification can be regarded as either as a gross breach of discipline or gross neglect.R.Order must be clear. In the case of Wanija Ha Karmika Sewaka Sangamaya Vs Ceylon Glass Company Hooting . De Silva ) Absenteeism becomes a misconduct when it is habitual and without authority. drunkenness when on duty. In the case of Piyasena VS Battaramulla Talangama Town Council it was held that Assaulting a superior officer even outside the premises and out of working hours is a grave misconduct in the case of Ceylon Mercantile Union vs M. and employer cannot reasonably expected to tolerate such behavior beyond certain point . In the case of All Ceylon Commercial and Industrial Workers Union VS General Industries Limited it was held that chronic absenteeism strikes to the very root of production . Disobedience.Gunasena and Co Ltd. The Supervisor in charge of certain machinery was found sleeping on duty at his work station. positive and unambiguous. The supervisor’s conduct was considered as an act of negligence .D.if not there can be no disobedience . use of narcotic drugs.the office he holds into disrepute. it was held that Assaulting a fellow employee is misconduct Dishonesty 8 . It has to be habitual and continues..

was a dishonest act. Gunasena and co limited alteration of a medical certificate amounts to misconduct in the case of Nidahas Karmika Saha Velanda Sevaka Vurthiya Samithiya vs K. it is not a grave act of misconduct. Susiripala it was held that Diverting the employers customers to a business rival was misconduct. Drunkenness. 9 .40.W. the Court held that “as such the employee. Position held by the employee In the case of H. is misconduct .D.1. there is a category of breach of discipline considered as grave. II). The Nature of the Business In the case of Ceylon Mercantile Union vs Bartleet and Company. but the Court held that the nature of the business was producing tea and what the employee stated was the main produce. The Establishment Code E-code states that the seriousness of the misconduct must be judged not only by the Act itself but in relation to the office held by the person concerned and the circumstances surrounding it (p. This is important because it helps the management to take decisions eg a grave act of misconduct may warrant immediate suspension from service or Termination. In a similar case LEWU vs The Superintendent Glen Alpin Group an employee who has worked for 36 years was terminated for having take 5-6 ounces of tea without the employers permission. hence it depends on the question of fact . being the conductor who is in charge of collecting the money should act honestly. Or it also could be an isolated act committed under circumstances of festivity and in no way connected with or effecting the employers business . The Employee’s Union was going on the basis that. a Conductor attempted fraud of Rs. Hence. as the quantum is small. this was considered a grave act of misconduct”. it was a grave act of misconduct.G.66 Vol. taking into consideration the nature of the business which was transporting people for money and the employee’s position.It was held in the case of The CMU vs M. not serious or serious. An offence or a misconduct could be simple or grave . Hence. In the state sector consumption of liquor in violation of a circular has been held as a serious misconduct GRAVITY OF THE MISCONDUCT The punishment for misconduct depends on the gravity of the offence. It was observed In the case of Cloustan & Co Limited Vs Corry The intoxication may be habitual or gross and directly interfere with the business of the employer or the ability of the servant to render service. Minor or major . the employee was found trying to remove 16 ounces of tea. The Court. In the case of The CMU Vs The British Electric Co Ltd it was held that Conspiracy to ruin the employers business.. Jayasekera vs The Ceylon Transport Board. Similarly according to regulations applicable to co-operative workers. In the case of Charted Bank of India Vs Patel it was held that disclosing confidential information relating to the employers business. The Courts have held that the gravity of the offence depends on .

is he comparatively a new employee who has had not the time to familiarize with the rules and regulations. the first act of misconduct. But before taking any disciplinary action. there has to be some sort of a punishment. Equidity demands consistency against some relevant bench mark 10 . Is there a pattern in the occurrence which could be identified 4. The first occurrence is usually viewed differently than the 3rd or 4th offence. This shows that the our courts take in to consideration various factors to see whether a punishment was justified . At the LT she was reinstated without back wages on one year probation. How long. This could be either through the positive approach or adopting a negative approach. this is part of the preventive discipline. As discussed earlier. 2.Degree of Socialization Eg. create awareness 7. period of service in the organization.History of the organizations discipline practice Eg. Has the management made an effort.Frequency and nature of the problem Eg. Does the employee know the rules and regulations. quality of the service. A person who gets late to report to work on a particular day due to his child being ill should be dealt with leniently than a person who is late due to over sleeping 6. 3. Seriousness of the problem eg Dishonesty is usually considered most serious than reporting to work 20 minutes late. Good and bad 5. If not at a later stage the labour courts may reverse the decision on the same grounds In Jeewandarage Dayawathi Vs Pugoda Textiles Limited the workman a Machine Operator was dismissed for thieving 03 pieces of cloth and her services were terminated.THE ASPECTS TO BE COVERED BEFORE DISCIPLINARY ACTION IS INITIATED Needless to say. Duration of the problem eg. but the Supreme Court restored the order of the LT. if there is a breach of discipline.Employees’ work history Eg. certain contingency factors are recommended to be followed in order to have a fair and equitable disciplinary practices. does he have a strong track record.Explanatory factors Eg. High Court reversed the decision of the LT. The workman was a cancer patient undergone surgery on several occasions . Though the theft was established the Tribunal took into consideration her period of service ( 8 years ). negligible value of the pieces of cloth.. Hence a prudent employer should approach a disciplinary problem having the following it in mind 1.

R. A workman who was an office bearer of a union had 17 years of service and a clean record. The worker admitted that it was his fault but said that it was due to forgetfulness.Implication for other employees Eg. There is little point to taking a certain action against the employee if it has a dysfunctional affect on others in the Unit 9.Management backing Eg.R. if so the courts will interfere with the managements decision. 11 . Punishments Oral warning. reduce or delay wage increments Demotion Compulsory retirement Termination of service REFERENCES De Silava. The Court held that the punishment was grossly disproportioned with the misconduct.8. One day he was found guilty for the delay in transmitting some documents from the employer’s branch office to the head office and he was dismissed. If the employees decide to take case to a high level in management will you have reasonable evidence to justify your decision PUNISHMENTS A punishment imposed should not be shockingly disproportionate in the light of the particular conduct and the employees past record or is such that no reasonable employer would impose in similar circumstances . Sri Laxshmi Saraswathi Motor Transport Co VS Labour Court. – Disciplinary Action & Disciplinary Procedure in the Private Sector . S. S.1981 De Silva. Written warning Fine or recovery of damages Suspension without pay Transfers Stop. – Law of misconduct – 2004 .

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