employee discipline, strategic human resource management, healthcare administration, progressive discipline, affirmative discipline


Conflict between managers and employees is inevitable in any organization, whether public or private. Often, the source of the conflict is employee non-compliance. Managers are responsible for disciplining those employees whose performance or conduct is sub-standard or inappropriate. Therefore, the ability to effectively address employee non-compliance is an essential skill for all managers. Most employee discipline systems fall into one of three categories: traditional, progressive, and affirmative. Traditional systems were prevalent in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An autocratic, demanding manager would mete out punishment to non-compliant employees both as an action against the employee and as a warning to other employees. Employees were often terminated for their first offense. With the advent of labor unionism and fair labor practices in the first half of the twentieth century, organizational leaders were required to develop more progressive employee discipline systems which protected employee "due process" and which allowed time and opportunity for improvement by the non-compliant employee. Progressive employee discipline systems are the most prevalent discipline systems in America's workforce today. These systems entail three or four steps, with each successive step usually resulting in more severe penalties for the same offense or more severe offenses. Progressive employee discipline allows the employee an opportunity to respond to non-compliance issues and to try to improve it to the extent required to maintain their position. A new employee discipline system, affirmative discipline, has gained adherents in the private sector primarily. Affirmative employee discipline systems do not use punishment to correct employee non-compliance but instead, ask managers to "coach" and "counsel" the non-compliant employee to better behavior and performance. Rehabilitating the employee's non-compliance is the primary goal of affirmative systems. The emphasis is not only upon the non-compliant employee, but on rehabilitating the "marriage" of non-compliant employee and direct supervisor. Little evidence exists to determine the extent to which progressive and affirmative employee discipline systems are being utilized in the modern organization. No evidence exists that indicates the prevalence of these systems in Florida's healthcare institutions. A survey-based analysis of the use of progressive and affirmative employee discipline systems in Florida's hospitals resulted in respondents indicating frequent utilization of formal progressive employee discipline systems. Designed in three or four steps, these progressive systems allow the employee to improve his/her behavior. Two common tools in progressive systems, the verbal warning and the performance counseling statement, are utilized frequently based upon those respondents surveyed. The use of affirmative employee discipline systems, on the other hand, is relatively rare. The use of written behavior contracts to elicit improved employee compliance is also quite rare. The vast majority of respondents appear to be unfamiliar with the use of written behavior contracts to elicit improved employee compliance.


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Graduation Date





Fottler, Myron


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs








Release Date

January 2006

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)