“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me”.
We know that it is a lie that words don’t hurt, or that words cannot break an individual.
However, there are healthy words…words that are needed as disciplinary action, to change the bad behavior of an employee in an organization.
In human resources and management, there has never been a more challenging time to perform this leadership role.
Bad behavior by an employee can bring down an entire organization, just as easily as theft or fraud, if there are no consequences from that bad behavior.
The word “discipline” on a Human Resources form, or one that has the words “disciplinary action” on it, may not be well received by an employee who has a behavior problem.
Perhaps that employee, because of a different background, may say that human resources should soften the form to say “for your information”, or “for your feedback”.
A softer word for discipline. But that is crazy, isn’t it?
We have to go back to the beginning, to the foundational word from which our human resources management process came from, and maintain strong professional convictions that you are doing the right thing.
Wisdom is powerful in us if we are convinced of its power when administering discipline.
Discipline and disciplinary action is not meant to hurt an employee, and certainly not meant to break anybody. Disciplinary action is simply used to change behavior.
Disciplinary action and discipline are legal, moral and, ethical management tools that we have used in human resources and in management of organizations as part of our core values.
We don’t easily change our core values just because the scene of this world is changing.
But if wisdom is not guiding our organization’s Human Resources management practices, then of course we need to change them.
Wisdom…I’m glad the word wisdom is still politically correct to use.
With the way culture is changing all around us, and at such a fast pace, it would not surprise me if someday we could no longer use the word wisdom, anymore than we would be able to use the word discipline, or disciplinary action in the management of our organizations.
God help us if this ever happens!
I realize that words can and do hurt; words can hurt more deeply than sticks and stones.
Human Resources is keenly aware of this.
Yet there are some words that, although they hurt us, they can can fix us too.
There are disciplinary words used by Human Resources and management, which some employees hate, but they provide needed change in the bad behavior of wayward employees.
Employee discipline is critical to preserve the legitimacy of our organizations.
I had children who broke bones, or dislocated their shoulder, and when that happened, I took them to the doctor.
In the old days, when somebody broke a bone, or dislocated a shoulder, there was no anesthesia or medicine to take away the pain.
What they were told by the doctor was, “bite on this piece of leather because what I’m about to do is really going to hurt”.
Today, when we administer disciplinary action, Human Resources works with management to ensure the proper adjustment of bad employee behavior, among the many other activities.
Some young people today will say, “it’s not what you are saying that hurts, but how you are saying it”! Hmm, engaging in that discussion is a slippery slope, I found it so in raising my 6 children
Remember how I like to quote movies?
There is a movie that’s 30 years old, created by Mel Brooks, called “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”.
In this movie, Prince John, tells the Sheriff of Rottingham, “if you tell me bad news in a good way, maybe it won’t sound so bad”.
This is a silly movie with ridiculous statements, but very representative of the society and the culture that we work in today. This is why managers have to get creative with employees, to package words of wisdom or even disciplinary action, in a very “pretty” package, so that “it won’t sound so pad”.
Other managers I have known during my 32-year career, packaged wisdom in a very ugly package, still they were wise words.
I remember my first job as a City Finance Director in 1995, Lyle Alberg introduced me to wisdom, his way, because he was a Master Sergeant from the US Marine Corp!
Believe me, in my case, Lyle did not package, wisdom, or disciplinary action in a pretty package!
But I have to admit, Lyle was exactly what I needed as a young department head working for local government.
The bottom line for this article today is that we would not want to spend our entire life with a broken bone or a shoulder out of place.
No, we go to the doctor immediately to fix us!
The same is true of wisdom and discipline we receive from H.R. office. This is needed at times to change the behavior of employees.
Let us all keep trusting in the vision of our organizations, and to the discipline provided by human resources and the managers who lead our organizations today.
Even you young professionals, who say, “I don’t want to be responsible for the actions of others”, will eventually realize that leadership is needed for our survival.
You young men and women who are getting trained and educated in the best management practices for our organizations, I am confident you will step up and rise to the occasion in due time.
With much love,
John Herrera, CPA
CitySpeak blog and podcast
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