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Is the process of setting and enforcing acceptable standards of behaviour within the employing organization, in many cases through the medium of a formal disciplinary procedure. Disciplinary standards and the rigour of enforcement are highly variable across workplaces, reflecting differences in the economic position of enterprises, the status, gender, and bargaining power of workers, and the customs and traditions of different industries. Despite variation, however, a basic and nearly universal distinction is drawn between relatively minor forms of ill discipline and more serious offences, such as theft, fraud, and violence, which constitute gross misconduct. Offences of the first kind include problems with attendance, absenteeism, and performance and are likely to be addressed in the first instance through minor sanctions, whilst offences of the latter kind typically result in dismissal. Sociologists have noted that workplace discipline often takes the form of a ‘negotiated order’, in which there is a degree of flexibility and ‘give and take’ in the application of formal disciplinary rules. Forms of behaviour that contravene formal standards may be tolerated (e.g. early finishing) as a means of maintaining good working relationships. Notwithstanding this observation, however, there is evidence of a tightening of disciplinary standards in UK workplaces, which reflects the broader shift in the balance of workplace power towards employers since the early 1980s.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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