Employee Discipline and the Decision-Making Process
Decisions are a part of each day for everyone on earth. Some of these decisions are small and in significant, such as what to eat for breakfast. While others are quite complex and one has to weigh the costs and benefits of the decision. The possible outcomes must be weighed and the solution chosen which has the most benefits and fewest costs. Business managers make decisions that effect many people and they must not only consider the outcomes for themselves, but must consider the opportunities and costs for the entire group or organization. One of the toughest decisions managers must make is the issue of discipline. When an employee breaks the rules or acts in a way that could be dangerous to others or effect the productivity of the group, the manager must decide what course of action is best for everyone.
Let us consider the following scenario. Dan is a production worker on an assembly line. His job entails electronics assembly work on an auto parts line. He has to work with an equal number of women and men. Recently several of the women have filed formal complaints that Dan is making sexual innuendoes towards them and they feel uncomfortable. On checking with the human resource department, you have found that there is a strange coincidence for women calling in sick when they are scheduled to work with Dan. This causes manpower shortages and reduces the overall productivity of the group. You have noticed that the productivity of that line is ae that of rest of the plant.
However, Dan himself has never called in sick, never been late and is a model employee. When confronted with the sexual innuendo question, Dan indicated that he did not know what they were talking about. Action must be taken, but what is appropriate in this situation? There are many factors to consider. The following research will explore the possible solutions to the situation in regards to modern decision making theory and research.
Programmed and Non-Programmed Decisions
Programmed decisions occur in response to situations that occur often enough in order for a set of rules regarding the decision to be developed. On example of these may be when to order inventory and at what levels. Non-Programmed decisions are made in response to situations that are unique, or to problems that are poorly defined and largely unstructured. The situation described involving Dan has qualities of both a programmed and non-programmed decision.
The company has strict policies regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, which call for firing on first offense. In this regard, according to the rules, Dan should be immediately fired. However, in this case, there are many variables. First, Dan denies the allegations and it may be that the women have plotted against him for some unknown reason. Secondly, this is Dan's first offense of any kind in 7 years of employment with the company. Dan has always been a model employee and the company would be losing a great asset if he were gone. The decision now has elements of a programmed decision and a non-programmed decision as well. A programmed decision can resemble a non-programmed decision when there are mitigating circumstances.
A study by LePine and associates (1998) determined that groups who work together on a common task develop standard pattern of interaction among team members. They determined that when a non-programmed change was introduced into the process, the routines then became problematic. When teams experience repeated success with certain behaviors in a constant problem environment, this generally leads to the creation of routines This is the exact effect seen when Dan supposedly started making innuendoes towards the women.
This team had been working together without incidence when suddenly Dan's behavior began to change, as stated in LePine et al. (1998), the situation then became a problem and caused tension in the group. It is important for the manager in the case of Dan to choose the option, which poses the least disruption of the established routine of the group, so that maximum efficiency can be maintained.
Decision Making Models
There are many models for making decisions (Peters, 2001). In order for the manager to make a correct decision, they must possess several items. They must have all of the information available, especially regarding risk. The decision must have clear-cut goals. Ambiguity must be reduced, including a lack of clear-cut goals, well-defined alternatives, and information about outcomes (Peters, 2001). In the case of Dan the goal is clear, management wishes for Dan to stop making innuendoes and making the women feel uncomfortable in order to keep production level at or above expectations. Alternatives however are rather unclear and need to be carefully considered.
There are several different decision making models and the one chosen for a particular decision is up to the manager's personal preference. The decision model chosen depends on the amount of risk, definition of goals and clarity of alternatives in a particular case. The three most widely accepted decision making models are the Classical Model, Administrative model, and the Political Model (Peters, 2001).
The classical model confronts decisions on the basis of intuition and personal preferences. The effectiveness of the classical model depends on the certainty of information provided and that the alternatives are known (Smithson, 2000). Logic must be used in order for the decision to reach the intended goals (Peters, 2001). The classical model is an appropriate model for making financial decision, or decisions that have a high degree of order and structure.
The administrative model is used in cases where there exist non-programmed events, uncertainty and ambiguity in alternatives or missing information. Two ideas constitute the administrative model, the first of which is bounded rationality (Peters, 2001). This simply means that persons have boundaries on how rational they can be. This means that at one point emotions take over control and rationality is lost (Deutsch, 2000). Facial expressions and non-verbal clues are important in this assessment as well (Smith et al., 1998). Perceptions play a part in the decision process (Greene et al., 1999). In the case of Dan, management must consider whether the women's allegations are based on logic, or whether they are highly emotional in nature and Dan's comments may have been taken out of context. Satisficing means that the decision-maker will choose the first solution that satisfies the minimal decision criteria (Peters, 2001).
The Political model of decision making has been considered the one which most resembles the real environment in which managers operate (Peters, 2001). There is much disagreement over the problems and solutions. Decisions are complex and involve many elements. Coalitions must be formed in order to resolve conflicts. In this case, the political model would be best utilized in order to restore cohesion between Dan and the women. Agents can be motivated by what they perceive benefits to be in the future (Charbit and Fernandez, 2000),
Steps In the Decision Making Process
Many authors define the steps involved in decision making (Harpur, 2002). The exact number of steps differs, but the concept is the same. The first process in decision making is to identify the problem and to define to eventual goals that one wishes to accomplish. The second step is to identify the options that are available for dealing with the problem. The Third Step is to evaluate the options in terms of both positive and negative consequences (Harpur, 2002). Many considerations must be taken into effect in the evaluation of the options including the company's goals, company culture and values, who will be affected by the decision, and short- and long-term consequences of the decision (Harpur, 2002). Next a course of action must be created and a time frame for implementation developed. The action plan must now be implemented. These steps will apply to any decision in almost any circumstance.
Recognition of the Need for Making A Decision
Many times managers may not recognize the scope or severity of a problem and may put off making a decision. Sometimes managers may put off making a decision because they cannot decide on the best course of action. Managers may decide that a problem will resolve itself if left alone. In this case the decision is one of inaction. The first step in the decision making process is to determine that a decision in deed does need made.
Diagnosis and Analysis of Causes
In order to implement a plan of action in response to the decision, the problem must first be defined clearly. The goals of the problem must be determined, that is what the preferred final outcome will be. The causes of the problem must be analyzed and clearly identified. Often this is difficult, especially when it involved two conflicting parties as in the case of Dan and the ladies. Alternatives cannot be developed until the true cause of a problem is known. There are many personal differences that must be account4ed for in diagnosing the causes (Mayer, 2000).