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How I Handled Disciplining My Assistant: A Case Study

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Assistant Discipline Work Manager

Disciplining your junior colleagues is never an easy or enjoyable part of your job. However, it is important that you are able to discipline your assistant as this is part of your role – if you are unable to do this part of you job, it may be seen that you are incapable of getting ahead in your career.

The issue of discipline in the workplace is a fuzzy area; managers have all different types of approach and much as one may prefer to encourage, others think it more effective to have an official discipline meeting to halt the problematic behaviour.

Equals at Work

The situation that Martin Price, 36, found himself in was rather difficult in that he needed to discipline his assistant, who had previously been his equal at work, which meant that there was already some awkwardness between them.

Martin told us, “I work as a marketing manager for a large property development firm and have been employed here for eight years. When I started, there was an older marketing manager and I was hired as a junior marketing assistant. After about a year, Claire started as a junior marketing assistant alongside me. We got on well and shared the role, although I was not given a promotion at that time, I tried to share what I knew as much as possible. Claire and I got on really well and, and we had different strengths, were able to work well together.”

A Promotion

The issue came after the marketing manager left and it was clear that Martin would be offered the position. He continued, “I had worked at the company for longer, had more relevant experience and had taken some additional training in my own time, so it made sense that I was given the job. I did have to have an interview with the directors, after which I was offered the marketing manager position, with Claire as my assistant.”

Although for a while Claire tried to carry on as well as before, it quickly became clear that the change had irritated her, resulting in a very unmotivated performance.

Martin says, “Although it was inevitable that I would receive the promotion, it seemed to change Claire’s perception of her role. She started to make mistakes, come in late and was generally just a bit difficult. I spoke to my boss confidentially and she suggested waiting a month, because prior to this Claire had been very good at her job. After a month there was no change, so I asked to have a quiet chat with Claire – I didn’t want it to be a verbal warning at this stage.”

A Meeting

Martin and Claire had their meeting and Martin was careful to say that Claire was a valued member of the team. He asked her if she was finding her role difficult, to which she replied that she was finding the promotion hard to handle as they had previously been more equal. Martin explained that her lack of positive performance had been noted and that they needed to iron out any difficulties so that they could move forward.

Martin concluded, “Luckily this seemed to do the trick and Claire really upped her game. I don’t think she had realised that we had noticed her change in behaviour and wanted a bit of acknowledgement for the difficult situation. The meeting also asserted me as her superior in work, which meant that we could move on and carry on with our jobs.”

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