Discipline or Compassion? A Manager’s Guide to Employee Behavior

Companies hire managers with a variety of leadership skills including management development, delegation, communications, and compassion. It is inevitable that one or more employees in the workplace will display behavioral problems when they are upset. The reasons can vary such as an illness, a disgruntled co-worker, or divorce, for a few examples.

Managers must know when to discipline or offer support to an employee. They spend many hours in the office with teams and realize altercations will happen sometimes. Discernment of which behaviors are a cry for help and deliberately insubordinate is a vital skill.

What should a manager do when he or she is observant of an employee showing signs of depression and anxiety? This manager’s guide to employee behavior will cover when to apply disciplinary actions and leadership compassion.

The Importance of Employer’s Workplace Code of Conduct

Managers have the responsibility of ensuring their employees follow the company’s code of conduct in the workplace. Most guidelines include rules for minor and serious misconduct offenses:

  • Attendance issues.
  • Repetitive tardiness.
  • Improper attire out of the dress code.
  • Use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Sleeping on job
  • Violence
  • Low productivity

Conflicts and behavioral problems in the office require a manager to be a listener, mediator, motivator, and leader. A disciplinary program is effective for all employees and upper management and should be implemented fairly. These programs are essential in handling situations and knowing whether to use compassion or to take disciplinary actions.

A manager may be compassionate when an employee is crying in the workplace. He or she will take the time to listen and relate to the employee’s emotions and thoughts. An employee having issues being in attendance or is tardy will probably receive a minor disciplinary action on the first or second offense.

The results of violence and the use of drugs or alcohol are immediate termination causes. Some companies are compassionate to employees experiencing substance abuse and may recommend a leave of absence to receive treatment. Managers must handle all misconducts in good faith, meaning they must be fair in discipline to avoid lawsuits.

Skills for Fair Discipline

  • Investigate a conflict or circumstance thoroughly by questioning witnesses.
  • Provide notice to human resources and upper management of the circumstances.
  • Allow employees to respond to allegations against them.
  • Make sure disciplinary actions meet the specific misconduct.
  • Keep a record documenting each subordination and the disciplinary action taken.

Behaviors That are Deliberate or a Cry for Help

Managers can distinguish the behavior patterns in their employees that are deliberate or a cry for help. A sign that an employee is depressed is repetitive errors performing tasks. Some people may see it as laziness, but the problem may be a symptom of depression. Compassionate managers can discern whether the person is deliberately making mistakes or if there is an underlying condition.

How the manager handles an employee with depression symptoms requires compassionate leadership. He or she understands the needs of their employees and considers their feelings, knowing the circumstance is a cry for help. Compassion leadership matters because employees are more productive and successful when meeting their needs. Managers have an important role in the workplace for creating a healthy environment and culture, mentally and physically.

What is Workplace Compassion?

Workplace compassion is the ability of a manager to observe and correlate to the emotions, thoughts, and/or life experiences of the employees. Managers who have training in leadership are psychologically skillful at understanding a circumstance from the perspective of an employee and responding with compassion. Managers and employees in the workplace are able to work together and create authentic, compassionate connections with one another. The result is enhanced employee work relationships and performance.

Research suggests leaders including managers are successful when they are self-engaged with their employees. They can work with them from different cultures, countries, and backgrounds. Center for Creative Leadership used data from over 6,700 managers in about 38 countries to ascertain the influences of compassion on job performance. They found that compassion in the workplace has a positive effect on managers’ performances. Your employees’ levels of engagement can be kept track of using employee engagement software.

Upper management reported managers with compassionate leadership perform better in the workplace. They received high ratings as compassionate and in performance by assistants and employees. It is crucial that managers are compassionate leaders and have this skill to connect professionally and personally with their employees.

How a manager knows when to discipline an employee or to offer support is to be observant and communicate with each employee. Keep the relationship in the workplace professional to create a cultural environment of support, teamwork, and values. Employee misconduct will result in some form of disciplinary action. A manager can decide to fire an employee or to offer support for help. The circumstances determine if discipline is necessary or to use the compassion leadership skill.


Guest post courtesy of Reggie Moore

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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