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Punishment – any suggestions?


This week, I have been thinking about how I can punish people. It would seem that there are only a small number of people in my office that keep refusing to act like normal people, as they consider themselves to be either too important or too busy to do what everyone else does in the office, such as re-filling the filter coffee machine or putting their plates in the dishwasher.

I'm getting fed up of sending out emails, as the only people that read them are the people who are already doing all the things they need to. And no matter how firmly I keep my tongue in my cheek, after a while I begin to hate every word I write!

I got really fed up last week so had to send a rant out, which I hadn't done in a while, and I received a few suggestions about how to punish people. One of the worst, I think, and maybe a little too extreme, was just to completely lock down the kitchen so nobody could use it for a day. In principle I like it, but then that means I don't get my 10 or so cups of tea! Another idea was to ban our beer trolley; I like this one because, in our office, it really hurts when you take people's alcohol away.

I'm not sure about this whole punishment thing though, because I can't single out who is causing all the problems so everyone will have to suffer, which isn't really fair.

When I was younger, I used to be a lifeguard in a fairly rough area and I had to constantly battle with teenagers who were causing trouble in our pool. I found the most effective way of punishing them, and making them leave the swimming pool, was to get everyone else out of the water.

Of course, then I had to do very little as a room full of cold people shouting and staring at you will soon make you leave! It's an extreme measure and I really don't want to have to start doing that sort of thing here – taking away something from all because of a few.

I think I might start by taking little things away, like their nutella and peanut butter. And if the coffee isn't refilled enough, then I'll just take it out of the kitchen; the sad thing is I know it probably won't make much of a difference, but I have to do something!

On a much more positive note, I have found some HR software that I don't think my CEO and FD can refuse. It does exactly what we ask – it's online and not very expensive. Hang on, a cheap, easy-to-use online system – that's probably not secure enough! Better go back to paper then.

2 Responses

  1. A couple of suggestions
    A local town was so fed up of the litter problem that they stopped having it tidied up for a week. After a few days the mess was awful and the clamour from those who wanted it fixed impacted on general behaviour. The danger is that you may need to get pest control in before your messy staff take responsiblity!

    The other is to show leadership. In another situation I saw the most senior person in an organisation tidy up while the others in the room complained about how nobody took a turn. It took her 5 minutes…and she left without saying anything. The message was very powerful.

    Is it really because the “fairies” keep turning up and tidying up when nobody is around – a la Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty/Enchanted – that allows people not to take responsibility?

  2. Punishment?
    I like the word consequence. If an employee performs incorrectly, that employee should suffer a negative consequence.

    I am unsure what you can control being in charge of your group, but there are many ways to levy a negative consequence. Not in any particular order they are reducing pay, unpaid days off, denying vacation when they want it, apologizing to the rest of the group for the offender’s poor performance, denying any request for special consideration, carefully and completely documenting each instance of poor performance in possible preparation for taking an action like termination. assigning the offender extra work or extra hours possibly on a weekend, changing their work location to something inferior obvious to everyone else in the office, etcetera.

    Use your imagination. Without a negative consequence facing them, people will rarely change. One of my operators had a very negative attitude and was a problem for anyone who had to deal with him. I first apologized to the others for his bad attitude. Then I announced that I was planning to change his shift so as to relieve those who had suffered so much. This would change his vacation days over the Christmas holiday and he strenuously objected because he had planned well ahead of time a flight to visit his father. Using this as a bargaining chip, I promised not to change his shift if he did everything in his power to stop being negative. I had discussed the difference with him over a period of months so he was very familiar with the damage he was doing to himself and his family as well as his fellow shift members. He carried out his end of the bargain, with some help, so well that 2 years later he was considered to have the most positive attitude of anyone in the station.

    Hope this helps. I will coach you in this if you desire.

    Best regards, Ben
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”

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