HOT STOVE RULE OF DISCIPLINE
Spare the rod and spoil the child. This is the moral to Aesop’s fable The Thief and his Mother. He proves that discipline is imperative. It emphasizes that if we do not take action in our children’s wrong doings we will hurt them in the longer run. Children need discipline in their lives. It is their only way of learning the difference between right and wrong. As parents, it is our duty to mold our children in the right direction. The rewards of implementing discipline are endless, for knowing that they will make the right decision even when you are not there is comforting, and it pleases you. Discipline is fair, and open disciplinary procedures are essential to maintain harmony. Therefore, discipline is an important action taken to encourage compliance with organizational standards and regulations; whether in the home or at the work place. A popular and effective disciplinary rule used today by many managers is known as the Hot Stove Rule of Discipline. This rule can be defined as the concept that disciplinary action should have the same characteristics as the penalty a person receives from touching a hot stove; that is, the discipline should be immediate, consistent, and impersonal (Gardner 1).
Before any disciplinary action can be implemented, a manager must first give advanced warning. Employees must be informed clearly that certain actions will result in disciplinary actions. This is a very important step. It is not the employee’s fault if he is not informed of the company’s rules, ethics and standards. It is management’s responsibility to educate and inform all employees. It is easier to accept discipline if the rules and standards are clearly stated beforehand and understood by the employees themselves.
The importance of the Hot Stove Rule is that there is immediate action taken for a negative or wrong decision made by the employee. In order for this to be productive, management must take immediate disciplinary action. The sooner the discipline is imposed, the closer it is connected to the violation. This enables the employee to associate the discipline with the offence rather than with the dispenser of the discipline. This is important, because you do not want your employees to associate your actions with you. You want them to know that what they did broke the organization’s rules. As the manager, it is your duty to penalize. You are there to help them and guide them to perform to the best of their abilities to the betterment of the association. Your discipline has nothing to do with the manager/employee relationship; it merely establishes standards to work by. As the dispenser of the discipline, you should react as soon as possible to the violation. When touching a hot stove, one gets burned; likewise, when committing an offence, if the response is immediate, the chances of it happening again are slim. Keeping the discipline immediate, and fair results in a positive work environment.
Now that you have immediately acted upon the violation, it is vital that you keep this method consistent. Appropriate disciplinary action should be taken each time the violation occurs. Managers should be consistent with their discipline and take the same action each time an infringement occurs. If the manager is not consistent, the organization will lose ethics and standards, the quality of work will decline, and the employees will lose respect and honor for you, the manager. The productivity of your team will disintegrate, especially if you do not implement the same disciplinary style consistently. Consistency lets the employee know that there is no room for slacking, so to speak, and standards will be adhered to. Keeping your stance with the employees is critical in business. Management is insignificant without the employees. A manager should always try to maintain the quality of the work. It is the manager’s duty to analyze each situation and deal with it accordingly. Some violations are more serious than others, and the manager then uses his personal discretion toward the situation.
The last guideline that flows from the Hot Stove Rule is to keep the discipline impersonal. The penalty for the violation should not be to the person who did the wrong, but to the wrong doing itself. Managers should keep this relationship with their employees and strive for it. When you are corrected, do you prefer to be looked down on because of your mistake, or would you rather be corrected, get advise in correcting your mistake and move on? Managers should always try to keep the partnership going in the work place, and for no reason should an employee be degraded and left feeling useless and incompetent. The discipline should be connected with a given violation, not with the personality of the violator.
According to Robbin’s article, developing effective discipline skills can be accomplished by following these suggested actions.
a) Confront the employee in a calm, objective, and serious manner.
b) State the problem specifically.
c) Keep the discussion impersonal.
d) Allow the employee to explain his position.
e) Maintain control of the discussion.
f) Obtain agreement on how mistakes can be prevented in the future.
g) Select disciplinary action progressively, considering mitigating circumstances (Robbin, 6).
Now that we have analyzed each aspect of the Hot Stove Rule of Discipline, let us now put this theory to work in a typical scenario in the work place.
John has just been employed by Verison Wireless Communication Systems. He has been in training for three weeks now, and is currently adapting to his new work environment, and team members. John has been learning all the regulations and standards he needs to work by in order to be employed by Verison. He understands all the rules and knows that he must abide by them. However, John is having a problem meeting his deadlines. His last progress report was due at mid-day, and he turned it in at 2:00 that afternoon. His manager knows that John is new, but also knows that if this problem is not dealt with immediately, it will be difficult to implement discipline in the future. Lets go through each phase of the Hot Stove Rule of Discipline with John’s manager and see how successful the outcome is.
Earlier, we talked about the importance of immediacy. John’s manager knows that immediately following an infraction discipline must take place. He also knows that before he can implement any form of discipline, he must first notify John. John must be aware of his mistake before formal disciplinary action can be initiated. The manager also realizes the importance of keeping the discipline impersonal. He knows that the discipline should be connected with the violation, not with the personality of the violator.
That afternoon, John receives a memo on his desk. It reads: According to Verison Policy, all Progress Reports are to be submitted clearly and promptly. We realize one may not consider the Progress Reports important, but we would like to emphasize now, that Verison takes them very seriously. A small meting will be conducted tomorrow at 9:00 am. with your Supervising Manager discussing proper procedures in writing and submitting these Progress Reports. We feel that this is a positive way to ensure that these minor technicalities are corrected now. Thank you so much for your cooperation; we look forward to helping wherever necessary to make your employment here at Verison as comfortable as possible.
On receiving this memo, John feels a bit frustrated. He realizes though, that this is just a minor detail he overlooked. He sees the emphasis on correcting the problem, and knows that his report was late, and he needs to work on his promptness.
John attends the meeting scheduled for the following day. He meets with his manager and they discuss procedures and promptness. They go through the steps in creating a Progress Report and how to eliminate unnecessary information. John discusses what may have held him back from turning in his Report on time. They discuss different options and come up with a compromise. John feels very comfortable talking to his manager. He knows what he needs to do now to get his reports in on time. The meeting is a success, but John’s manager does not fail to tell him that if this happens again there will be greater disciplinary action taking place. John understands. They shake hands and John leaves.
Although the meeting discussed a minor subject, it was still one of importance. John’s manager effectively implemented the Hot Stove Rule to his management procedure. He was immediate with the discipline. Advance warning was given. Consistency will take place, and the discipline was delivered in an impersonal manner. The problem was noticed and dealt with accordingly. John’s manager fells that the meeting went well, and has faith that his employee will work towards defeating this minor issue.
The Hot Stove Rule is a model of how disciplinary action should be handled. Touching results in a burn (an immediate consequence). Discipline should be an immediate consequence that follows a rule infraction. The hot stove provides warning. Disciplinary rules should inform employees of the consequences of breaking the rules. A hot stove is consistent in administering pain. In conclusion, a Hot Stove is a vital instrument in taking management action. It assists in encouraging compliance with organizational standards and regulations. The Hot Stove Rule of Discipline is effective and continues to prove efficiency.