Thursday, October 9, 2014


***SCOTUS Alert: Supreme Court convened on October 6, 2014
Among the cases to be heard later this term will address pregnancy discrimination. Must employers make special accommodations for pregnant employees? In Young v. UPS, a Maryland case, federal courts rejected Young’s pregnancy discrimination claim on the grounds she was treated the same as other workers who were injured off the job, but the Supremes will hear her appeal and decide whether pregnant workers must be given the same special accommodation as other employees who have a temporary disability. Young was denied light duty under UPS’ policy that only employees injured on the job would be allowed light duty (which was also negotiated under the union contract). It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if the decision stands, how it will affect Maryland’s law, which went into effect last year in response to Young’s loss in court, and which requires ADA-like accommodations for pregnant employees. (Remember, pregnancy, in and of itself, is not considered a disability under the ADA.)***

An essential job skill

Last week I posted about the importance of cultural fit, from both ends of the work equation – employer and prospective employee. As I mentioned, both skill and cultural fit are key items to assess in an applicant. One of those skills should be discipline. No, not the slap on the wrist (or worse) because of a policy violation. But the self-discipline that provides the internal drive to get things done. The trait that provides focus, attention to detail, organization and the perseverance required to be successful.

People who are disciplined tend to be more successful professionally and in their personal lives. Disciplined employees are liked and appreciated by not only their managers but their fellow co-workers. These employees will climb the success ladder more quickly compared to those who are less self-disciplined or just do the minimum to get by.

As a manager, you want employees who will persevere, who won’t give up despite failures and setbacks and who have the ability to avoid distractions and temptations that would rob them of the ability to get the job done.

As a person (or employee) self-discipline leads to self-confidence and self-esteem, which are key components of happiness and satisfaction.

Asking the right questions during an interview can help managers assess the level of discipline an applicant possesses. These questions are not uncommon or especially creative, but are often asked for different purposes. Yet, they can reveal this important trait.
  • During long term projects, how do you track progress and goals?
  • When was the last time you were truly angry in the workplace? Why were you angry? What did you do about it? How was the situation resolved?
  • Tell me about your methods of keeping track of ongoing changes in your (field, profession, industry) and how you keep on top of the paperwork and incoming information. Do you ever get behind? How do you handle that?
  • Describe your methods and systems to keep your calendar and to-do lists in order.
  • What ideas have you come up with that have increased your productivity, or someone else's?
  • How did you prepare for this interview?
You can also give the applicant a work simulation. Provide the materials and information to complete tasks similar to what someone in that job would do. Then, see if the applicant accomplishes those tasks in a disciplined, orderly, and organized manner.

How can your organization foster self-discipline in your employees? Again, the list isn’t new, but these items reflect simple, good management techniques that will have the added benefit of encouraging your employees to be more disciplined in their approach to work.

1. Clarify goals. Team goals should reflect the organizational goals, with some refinement with respect to your function or department. When someone new is added, spend some time with them to communicate those goals and what you expect of them in their specific role, emphasizing how their hard work will benefit their co-workers as well as the organization as a whole.

2. Establish clear rules. Explain precisely what is acceptable and what isn’t, what’s explicitly against the rules, and explain the policies and procedures for their work environment.

3. Create a foundation of accountability. Make it clear that you expect your staff to accept responsibility for everything they do, regardless of the outcome. Create an environment where they’re comfortable doing so. While honesty may prove painful at times, they’ll be better off accepting their mistakes, but be allowed to learn from them.

4. Encourage self-control. Give them opportunities to improve their productivity by eliminating bad habits: excessively long breaks, unproductive multitasking, procrastination, web surfing, and any other time-wasters. Most importantly, model the self-control you want them to possess.

When people are self-disciplined, the need for a supervisor or manager to impose external discipline is diminished. This makes everyone more productive. Supervisors and managers are then better able to spend time on the more interesting stuff, like developing your employees and getting the real work of the organization done and being successful doing it.

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