EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES!! – Leadership, Supervision and discipline

By Senyo M. Adjabeng (The HR Coach)

In the words of Myles Munroe, “…Leadership includes the capacity to influence, inspire, rally, direct, encourage, motivate, induce, move, mobilize and activate others to pursue a common goal or purpose while maintaining commitment, momentum, confidence and course”.  He further states that “the essence of leadership is the ability to influence others for a common cause”.

Rightly or wrongly, influence may be positive or negative.  But I want to believe that Munroe meant ‘influence’ in the positive sense.  Why have I started this week’s article with quotes on leadership?  Well, last week, I wrote about all the terrible things in attitudes that employees exhibit in the workplace.  I specifically mentioned untenable attitudes such as Absence from work, insubordination, theft and other criminal acts, egotistical personal development, time wastage etc.  I promised to share with readers this week how to manage bad attitudes in employees through effective leadership, supervision and discipline.

Where leadership is effective, bad attitudes are rare because they are effectively controlled.  Through clearly defined structures and procedures, a leader is able to craft a near perfect system in which high performance is rewarded and bad attitude corrected or exterminated.  Mechanisms are used for removing bad attitude from the system before it infects other employees and spreads to become a norm or a bad concretized organizational value which is difficult to remove or change.

Today, many organizations have such bad values and norms in concretized employee attitudes which are so difficult to change.  Attitudes such as lateness to work, organized and coordinated crime through workplace mafias, behavioural syndicates, widespread insubordination, little or no supervision of employees etc.

Effective leadership enables an organization to adequately exterminate such behaviour by rewarding good behaviour and correcting, rectifying or removing bad behaviour.  Though this may sometimes lead to sacrificing the leader because s/he is overwhelmed by the circumstances and the more influencing bad behaviours, it is the case that effective leadership triumphs in most cases.


Supervision is a practical way of demonstrating effective leadership.  Leadership that deals with one and all employees in the organization by taking into account each individual worker’s needs and challenges.  It would also mean that leaders in supervisors and managers will have to get their hands dirty sometimes when they come down to the level of individual employees to assist them in understanding their roles or effectively executing their jobs.

Effective supervision is basically about ensuring that subordinates get the necessary attention and assistance to perform their jobs as they should.  In traditional supervision concepts, the focus was more on work output rather than the worker.  However, contemporary supervision or what may be referred to as the new phase of supervision lays much emphasis on the worker.  This concept believes that where an employee’s work is closely monitored and the appropriate assistance made available to such employee through supervision, performance is normally higher.  The new phase of supervision therefore relies on the following in ensuring good attitude or removing bad attitude from the workplace.

Working as teams

In the new supervisory framework, all supervisors must work with their subordinates or workforce as teams.  As explained above, this has the advantage of managing the workforce as one unit or family where everyone is the other’s keeper.  Good attitudes are rewarded and reinforced while bad attitude is identified, discouraged, corrected or exterminated.

Utilizing Employee assistance Programmes

When members of a team or workforce are seen to be having some specific problems with their job tasks, the solution when dictatorial leadership styles are used will be to immediately sanction such non-performing persons and finally give them the sack or ‘dismissal’.  With the new phase of supervision, these non performing employees are assisted with the necessary tools and training facilities to up their performance.  These tools when employed help the non performing employees to get the needed attention and assistance to overcome their difficulties in specific areas of their work.  The tools or assistance may be found in Counselling, Mentoring and Coaching, Child or nursery care, financial management and investment etc.

Mastering Group Dynamics

A group of people always have different personalities, attitudes, behaviours and work styles which they bring to the group.  Simply put, group members or people in the workforce bring on board their positive as well as negative elements that constitute their personalities.  Hence, effective supervision will be to balance the dynamic effects of all these traits that team members or the workforce bring to the workplace.  The balance should always be such that it ends up harnessing the total strengths and weaknesses of all team members to achieve the set team or organizational goals.

Understanding Employee Grievance Systems

Every organization or workplace has standard grievance systems that are used to resolve the petty structural or work problems that members of the team face from time to time.  Since no system is perfect, the organizational structure and systems may not be perfect and some or all employees or team members may have problems with aspects of it.  The standard way to report such grievances and the systematic ways of dealing with them constitutes an effective grievance handling mechanism.  In the end, the supervisor must be aware and well versed in the grievance mechanisms of the organization so that s/he can speedily handle employee grievances before they escalate into full blown conflicts in the workplace.

Resolving Disputes Amicable

Every supervisor must necessarily be a problem solver.  The supervisor as a problem solver must be able to resolve problems and disputes between employees, team members, as well as between him/her self and subordinates or the team.

This is perhaps the most effective way of dealing with or preventing disputes or conflicts from escalating into bigger problems with serious organizational consequences.


In most workplace policies, it is clearly stated that discipline is not supposed to be used to punish an employee but to correct and return the employee to acceptable behaviour.  Though comforting, it is quite evident that workplace practitioners in supervisors and managers do not buy into the discipline as a correction mechanism ‘crap’.  They want to punish, dismiss, fire, suspend, query etc.  That makes them feel powerful, in control and seen to be doing something about bad attitudes or behaviour in the workplace.  That approach seems not to be working any longer though.  Employees are continuously becoming enlightened and more aware of their rights, and are challenging every disciplinary or termination decision before the National Labour Commission or the Courts even when the employee is clearly that s/he did the wrong thing.  So simply put, the haphazard way of handling bad employee attitude has changed or should change.  Specific laid down procedures must be followed to systematically discipline or correct an employee.  This is referred to as progressive discipline.

Progressive discipline deals with the structural and segmented approach to correcting bad behaviour or non performance in employees.

What will make a group of people carry a Chief in a palanquin?  Unless he is legitimate and has influence.  That makes a leader.

The first step in progressive discipline is to outline or list all conceivable offences.  Such schedule of offenses may be categorized into serious offenses which may lead to the termination of the contract of employment, and minor offenses which may not lead to the termination of the contract of employment but may attract other forms of disciplinary action.

The schedule of offenses must always be brought to the attention of employees in detail during orientation programmes or special training sessions on employee discipline.  Disciplinary procedures must be contained in employee’s contracts of employment or Collective Agreements or employee handbooks or through ay other means possible.  This is usually important in preparing employees and informing them of the rules and regulations, dos and don’ts as well as what constitutes an offence in the workplace.  Employees should also be well informed about various sanctions that apply to specific behaviour and offences in the workplace.

When an employee misbehaves, exhibits unacceptable or bad attitude, it must be brought to his/her notice that such attitude is not acceptable.  This may be done primarily through an initial pep-talk or the issuing of a query to invite comments and responses from the employee.  Where the response admits to the offence, appropriate sanctions may be applied depending on the gravity of the offence with regard to the schedule of offences.  Where the employee denies allegations, a formal hearing before a disciplinary committee will be necessary.  The disciplinary committee will hear the employee’s defence, hear other witnesses and interested parties in the matter and determine whether the employee can be deemed to have committed the offence on a balance of probabilities.  Sanctions can then be recommended and applied where the committee finds the employee culpable.  In all cases, the employee must be informed and aware of the schedule of offences, be educated on them, be advised and counselled or warned upon initial minor infringements before a more high handed sanction may be applied.  Bad employee attitude can always be removed from the workplace – but it must be done lawfully and most effectively.

2 thoughts on “EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES!! – Leadership, Supervision and discipline

  1. Tom says:

    I would like to use this article for a class assignment. What date was it written or posted?

    Thank you very much.

    1. corporate says:

      Tom, It was published on July 27, 2011. Thanks.

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