Case Study: Managing Employee Discipline

Mr. Harry, Branch Manager, Luxemburg Main Branch of XYZ Bank was wondering as to what could be done to restore the punctuality of the staff in his branch. A majority of the staff members were taking time off from the work, on a number of occasions, during the day, which resulted in work remaining incomplete, and in the payment of overtime wages for its completion. The problem was generally not faced by other banks in Luxemburg, except the PQR Bank, another Indian bank having branches in Luxemburg. Other local and British banks were able to exercise sufficient control over their staff to ensure proper attendance and maintain office decorum.

Initially, Mr. Harry tried to persuade the staff to be punctual. He sermonized them on several occasions. None of this, however, made any dent on the problem. Failing in these methods, he resorted to punishment of the erring members of the staff. This led to some improvement but not to the desired levels. He also felt that prolonged use of this method may, indeed, lead to more serious trouble. He therefore thought of analyzing and identifying the root cause to the problem.

His investigation in the habits formed, revealed that the unauthorized “time off’ was used mainly for personal work which included shopping, personal errands, meeting friends, going for coffee, etc. When caught, the general explanation given by the staff member was that he had gone out for a cup of coffee. Mr. Harry noticed that no canteen facilities were available in the branch nor was there any space, where it could be set up. The British and other local banks, however, had made adequate provision for the purpose.

An automatic coffee vending machine was installed, but the move did not succeed as the stall complained that the coffee given was not up to the standard. The members of the staff protested and refused to use the machine.

Days passed by. One day, it occurred to Mr. Harry that the muster-roll of the branch did not have any provision of marking the period of the absence by the members of staff in the event they had to go out for coffee. It was not possible to know or to control the period of their absence. To overcome this, he decided to install a “time-clock” at the maingate with in & out” trays for attendance cards. The staff was advised to use these cards for marking their arrival and departure and also the absence periods. Authorized outside work could be authenticated by the immediate Supervisor.

The idea was brought to the notice of the branch union by the staff members. There was resistance to the idea initially. Mr. Harry, however, pointed out to them that this was a scientific method of recording the attendance and it was not possible to falsify the same. As it happened, during that period only, the services of three members of the staff were terminated for dishonesty and fraud. They had altered the time marked in their muster-roll for departure, thereby, claiming overtime for a period in which they did not work. This was proved by the photocopy of the day’s muster-roll taken by Mr. Harry, from time to time, by an unscheduled visit to the branch late at night without any indication to any one in the branch.

Mr. Harry pointed out to the union representatives that by the introduction of “time clock,” the temptation to alter time by members of the staff would be removed and that it would he of long-term benefit to the staff. The union members almost came round to accepting (he idea but, still, were not fully convinced.

At this stage. the Regional Manager, who came to know of the proposal of installing the Clock, suggested to Mr. Harry that as no other bank in Luxemburg was adopting this procedure, he should have this scheme approved by the Secretary of the Luxemburg Bankers Association.

The meeting with the Secretary was failure. He was a man of old British tradition and was shucked at the idea of introduction of a time-clock in the banking industry there. All efforts by Mr. Harry to convince him that there was nothing wrong in it and that most officers of major corporations had this system did not move him. Other bankers, when individually contacted, also did not favor the idea.

Not willing to go all alone, the Regional Manager advised Mr. Harry to shelve the idea.

Questions For Discussion:

  • Analyse the root cause of employee indiscipline?
  • Identify the problems of loss of control over staff?
  • State failures of corrective measures?

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