The Disadvantages of Positive Discipline in Business

Some employees are easy to lead. They listen to instructions, adhere to your policies and work hard to achieve the goals of your small business. Other employees require more handling. Through a combination of positive and negative disciplinary approaches, you can find ways to extract the best from any type of worker.

Positive Discipline

  1. Effective discipline entails a layered approach. The first layer is positive discipline: correcting mistakes with an eye toward comprehension and rehabilitation. The goal is to train and motivate workers to adopt desirable behaviors rather than simply to punish infractions. For example, if some workers habitually leave early, positive discipline might involve rewarding employees who stay later than required.


  1. The chief disadvantage of positive discipline is that it isn't appropriate in all situations. For example, if an employee commits a serious infraction, such as physically attacking a colleague, it’s not appropriate to focus on amplifying the positive aspects of his behavior or resolving the core reasons for the dispute. In this case, the employee’s infraction is serious enough that positive discipline alone is insufficient and perhaps even irresponsible.

Negative Discipline

  1. When positive discipline doesn't work, use the second layer -- negative discipline, such as punishment or warnings. If these initial steps fail to resolve the problem, suspension and firing should follow. The disadvantage of negative discipline is that it creates a culture of fear and apprehension, which lowers worker morale and inhibits employee growth. Using negative discipline to punish employees for poor performance is not as effective as helping them identify their weaknesses and explore how to improve upon their strengths.


  1. Done correctly, positive discipline is the best approach to employee management as long as supportive leaders don't end up enabling undesirable behaviors. For example, a manager might be lax in enforcing rules because she wants her employees to be happy. But following the rules is in everyone’s best interests: The organization as a whole benefits when all workers adhere to well-designed policies and procedures. The key is to recognize that positive discipline is supportive but not weak-kneed. Your goal is not to please your employees but to make them stronger by developing their abilities and confidence through constructive feedback and training.