The Failure of Progressive Discipline in Poetry

  • Jan. 19, 2021, 8:34 p.m.
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  • Public

The following are my notes and thoughts from Discipline Without Punishment by Dick Grote

Around the 1970s, there was a Frito-Lay plant that fired 58 of its 210 employees. The climate at that plant was toxic. Supervisors were proud of using the traditional progressive-discipline system for all violations, serious or trivial. They eagerly wrote up troublemakers in an attempt to run off malcontents. Every employee who received any disciplinary contact was considered a “troublemaker;” his or her performance was attentively watched with the goal of finding sufficient evidence of misbehavior to whisk him through the discipline system and out the door. Of course, with this constant scrutiny, supervisors didn’t have much trouble building a case to justify termination.

In that environment, all commitment disappeared; employees put forth only a minimum level of exertion. These workers were angry about the constant reprimands, written warnings, suspensions without pay, and terminations. They were looking for any way to get even with management. Thus, they started writing obscene messages on potato chips.

One clever person, who Frito-Lay never found out, found a way to create organizational chaos. He wrote vulgar language on potato chips which received complaints and news stories.

Dick Grote was given a task to go in there and shape those knuckleheads up. What he discovered was that the “progressive-discipline” system did not correct poor performance but was generating it.

Does this sound like something going on today with the left?

They want to punish, punish, and punish. They want to destroy, destroy, and destroy because they believe that it will correct what they “deem” bad behavior.

The long-standing approach to discipline–warnings, reprimands, suspensions without pay–produce belligerence, resentment, and sabotage.

Frito-Lay scrapped all forms of punishment. They focused on insisting that people take personal responsibility for their choices of behavior and conduct. They even abolished the unpaid suspension and replaced it with a paid disciplinary suspension.

America’s traditional progressive-discipline system does not need to be tuned up or tinkered with. It needs to be abolished! Punitive punishment has gotten our country nowhere! It doesn’t even work in the criminal justice system. If you have a record, then good luck getting a job or an apartment or a place to rent. Why? Because the only good thing that America does is stick it up your ass and give you the big fuck you.

Where does this progressive-disciplinary system come from

You guessed it


Why did UNIONS set up this disciplinary system?

Unions demanded that companies eliminate summary terminations and instead develop a progressive system of penalties that would provide an employee with a new benefit–protection against losing their job without first being fully aware that their job was at risk. Unions, not management, invented disciplinary action.

The Failure of Progressive Discipline

Supervisors saw the formal disciplinary procedure as a way to build a case against an employee they had decided to terminate.

They use the system to terminate rather than rehabilitate.

The system fails to meet its most basic responsibility: the development of productive and well-disciplined individuals. If an individual enters the system, the person almost never escapes it.

Almost every employee who received a verbal warning received a written warning; almost every one who reached the point of disciplinary suspension was fired not long after.

The PROBLEM is the way we are administering the system.

The PROBLEM is the system itself.

The basic premise of the traditional discipline system is that crime MUST be followed by punishment. With its constant quest to “make the punishment fit the crime.” and its awkward mix of both retribution and rehabilitation, progressive discipline is America’s criminal justice system brought into the corporation.

While the short-term consequences of punishment is an immediate improvement, the long-term results of punishment are disastrous. The use of punishment produces side effects and long-term consequences–anger, apathy, resentment, frustration.

It just doesn’t work! Never will!

The New System

Positive Contacts
Performance Improvement Discussions
Termination is not a final step

Termination is not the result of the employee but the failure of the disciplinary system.

To most people, punishment seems like a tough way of assuring compliance with organizational standards. If someone fails to meet expectations, we punish that individual until that person complies.

anticlimatic January 19, 2021

When you're locked in a blood feud dolling out punishment is less about anything rational and more about expressing anger. Any logic involved is post hoc after that.

And while the right has built in philosophical and moral stops in place to temper the natural anger response in humans, the left celebrates it.

Raphael Tiriel anticlimatic ⋅ January 19, 2021

I definitely agree with you.

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