Six reasons why tele-discipline is a red flag

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In The Workplace — By Rey A. H. Elbo

How effective are using e-mail, SMS, Skype, Facebook or other similar media tools in counseling, if not castigating employees? I’m using them almost every day to monitor the performance of my 33 workers as my office is in another location within the metropolis. Please let me know your thoughts. — Unsure. Albert

Einstein described the invention of the radio as “a kind of a very, very long cat.” You can pull the cat’s tail in New York and you hear its head meowing in Los Angeles. The radio operates something like an elongated cat. You send signals here, and they receive it there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

The same thing can happen when you use tele-discipline to correct the work performance of people. Aside from Einstein’s cat analogy, the only difference is that there is no sincerity and seriousness while you’re in the process of coaching, counseling, or disciplining the workers. Technology is convenient and yet it is the same tool that makes people managers look like incorrigible fools.

Technology can help fast-track the resolution of the concerns of problem employees and employees with problems. It may be suited for organizations with employees in remote locations or those who travel a lot. The downside, however is that the issue becomes prone to misdiagnosis without the face-to-face interaction, no matter whether you do it via Skype, Facetime or whatever high-technology channel is at your disposal.

Employee discipline is often the most despicable job of line executives. Many supervisors and managers dislike the idea of correcting their workers, for fear of alienating them, among other things. But really, one can’t avoid it but to correct their bad behavior or poor work performance. Therefore, the ultimate responsibility rests upon every supervising executive, including the job of firing people.

Now, here are the reasons why you should not correct employee behavior or poor work performance using tele-discipline:

One, face-to-face interaction implies the gravity of the situation. If you rely on other methods, like tele-discipline or tele-counseling, chances are, the worker may consider it a mere joke.

Two, formal documentation is necessary. Even a verbal reprimand must be duly recorded like having a memo for file as to the date and circumstances when you first raised the issue with an erring worker.

Three, avoidance of double jeopardy. If you’re too stubborn and limit yourself to tele-discipline, you may be forced to repeat the process under a face-to-face set-up, if the former proves to be a futile attempt.

Four, tele-discipline doesn’t offer the right environment. If the boss and his worker are both online, there’s a big chance that they can be disturbed by incoming e-mails, texts or other important calls.

Five, tele-discipline could violate the due process principle. Regardless of whether one is talking of light or serious offenses, substantive and procedural due process must be given to all workers.

Six, tele-discipline violates privacy and confidentiality of the process. This is true as company e-mails and intranet are not necessarily private as they can be accessed by other people, no matter how few they are. Of course, you can always tell the workers that the process is to be recorded and may be known to other people, like those from IT, except that this may only add tension to the whole situation.

Really, there’s no substitute to taking a personal approach in counseling and disciplining employees. This is where the workers are given the right chance to say what they want to say. Sometimes, just being able to talk freely about their concerns can go a long way toward resolving them.

While it is true that a face-to-face intervention can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, still, be patient enough to give it a serious thought because there’s no other way.

Increasing productivity and motivating people to do their best is a lot easier when they are active participants in giving ideas to management, on every aspect of business operations and much more if you’re to have harmonious work relations.

Of course, doing it via remote control with 33 workers is a bit difficult as it violates the theoretical span of control that limits supervision to not more than ten workers per line executive. But with the help of technology, you can make it easier to monitor people, except that you don’t do it in the case of employee discipline.