Discipline and grievances at work


For any organization to move towards excellence, maintenance of harmonious relationships between the people and the departments within the organization is a critical pre-requisite. This requires the presence of an effective discipline and grievances management system in the organization.

In the Indian context, the traditional Indian business organization viewed discipline as a strict, regimental approach where the employee or the factory worker was expected to operate within the given parameters. Any perceived violation of these parameters would be met with strict disciplinary action. However, the downside of this approach was that it created a culture of fear, resulting in a loss of creativity, experimentation, challenge, and healthy brainstorming on part of the employees.

The long-term consequence of this traditional disciplinary approach was that innovation and originality got largely stifled in the Indian organizations, and a culture of “yesmanship” pervaded through the system. However, the modern management view of discipline is quite the opposite of the traditional approach. It encourages constructive and positive solutions to disciplinary problems. Its key goal is to help the erring employee modify his behaviour, which is for his own betterment within the organization, as well for the organization’s benefit. Discipline in modern management is a tool to work “for” the employees, and not “against” the employees.

At a broader level, promotion of healthy industrial relations between the management, trade union, and the workers is a crucial objective of good discipline and grievance management within the organization. (1) Grievance management must walk hand in hand with organizational discipline. In a democratic set-up any employee should be in a position to express his dissatisfaction, whether it be a minor irritation, a serious problem, or a difference of opinion in the work assignment, or in the terms and conditions of employment.

The National Commission on Labour (1969) narrows the scope of grievances to the individual issues that are of minor or manageable nature within the organization. Any general grievances of a large group of employees or of a large magnitude may need to be handled through arbitration or legal recourse, unless they are resolved amicably between the employees and the management. (2)

Counselling is a critical area of human resource management that tends to get ignored in the Indian organizations till today. Counselling creates a platform for mediation and resolution of minor disputes, complaints and disciplinary problems within the organization. It is a positive and healthy approach to handle discipline and grievance issues. It creates an atmosphere of engagement, and does not let the employees feel helpless or dissatisfied at any level. It is vital for the medium and large Indian organizations to appoint a trained and experienced counsellor who handle most of the disciplinary matters and grievances skilfully and in long-term interest of the employee as well as the organization.

Harmony and team spirit is the key to success for any organization at the end of the day. Ultimately, it depends upon the leadership skills of the top management how constructively they handle the sensitive issues of discipline and grievances, and create an environment of mutual trust and positive cooperation within the organization.


- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)





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