Discipline In The Workplace: How Do We Practice It?

We are all familiar with and have heard of the word “discipline”. But do we truly know what it means? Many of us had a teacher, coach or a manager that was labeled a “disciplinarian” and we took their actions to heart as the word’s true meaning. Many of us were raised to believe that this word has a negative connotation and that it meant some type of punitive consequence. When, in fact, the exact opposite is true!


I was inspired to write this article when I encountered a section on disciple while reading an incredible book called “What Do You Really Want For Your Children” written by bestselling author Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Since becoming an adult, I have always known that discipline was a positive mindset that fostered character assets through action. When I read this section from chapter 6 on discipline, it seemed to clear away any doubt I had on that belief and re-affirm the feelings I had in my heart.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of discipline as defined by Merriam-Webster:

noun | dis·ci·pline |\ˈdi-sə-plən\

1: control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior

2: a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders

3: behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules or orders

As we can see, nearly every word used to describe the definition of discipline comes from a mindset. In other words: Your Attitude! As Dr. Dyer brilliantly outlines a way to obtain “No-Limit Living” in this book, I wanted to share some of my ideas on how we can apply this to the workplace.

As adults, when most of us think about discipline, we cringe right? It means something bad, right? WRONG! Think about it for a second, where would our country be without the discipline of the Armed Forces to carry out their orders? How would you travel on the roadways safely without the discipline to adhere to the stop signs/lights? How would your employer compensate you for the work you performed without the discipline to create and balance a budget?

No sir, I am here to let you in on a little secret: Discipline is totally a positive thing. Those who have led you to believe anything else have been practicing discipline as only an action verb instead of an attitude that precedes the action verb. Did you ever look the word discipline up to see what it truly means? Why not? How many other critical, life-changing words are you walking around thinking you understand without ever looking up their meaning?

What does discipline mean to you?

The beauty of this word is that it can mean anything to anyone at any time. What I believe discipline truly means is that we have our own personal set of ethical standards (attitude), both in the physical and moral sense and we live up to them (action)…no matter what. We remain true to ourselves. Discipline means we truly know who we are inside and we empower ourselves. Discipline means integrity to self.

I suggest you take a few minutes right now and try to see what discipline means to you. It could change your life for the better and that ripple effect will touch everyone you know.

Applying discipline in the workplace

Our employers expect us to show up on time and do the work we agreed to do when hired. We are to take breaks and lunch when scheduled, and arrange for time off when necessary. Each one of these things (any many more) take discipline. Probably the hardest discipline of all for some of us is getting out of bed when that awful noise, commonly known as the alarm clock, starts going off. Or maybe it is keeping our phone in our pocket when it starts making noise. Secret: There is a silence mode!

A few tips on discipline at work:

  • Respect everyone, every time. Respect is a two-way street. You have to give it to receive it.
  • Model the type of actions and behavior someone with discipline possesses.
  • Trust others to be who they are, not who you want them to be. If uncertain, ask. Beware of those who have problems with trusting others. It is a signal that they are not trustworthy.
  • It is always better to under commit and over deliver than to over commit and under deliver.
  • Management is paying you to give 100% effort while you are in their employ. Don’t cheat them, or yourself.
  • Agree to disagree. Everyone’s opinion has a right to be heard. This is amplified where a customer is concerned.
  • Integrity is who you are when no one is looking. If your best effort only comes forth when you are supervised, you are shortchanging everyone, but most of all, you are hurting yourself.
  • Leaders lead people, managers manage things. Don’t confuse a manager for a leader and if your leader is managing, offer to help and allow them to lead.
  • Everyone should be working toward a common goal. Do not let personalities get in the way of achieving that goal.
  • There is no substitute for honesty, even if there is a negative consequence. In fact, honesty is required to practice discipline at all times and applies all of the tips above.

I could go on and on here, but I chose to stick with 10 that are essential and conducive to everyone’s benefit at any job. Each one of these takes discipline to practice.

Applying discipline to the construction industry

The central fact for all trades on each project is one glaring factor: Having the discipline to read the plans. When you have a 200 or 300 page plan, this can take a full day or longer. Yet without the discipline to do a thorough job here, it could mean disaster. But has the person reading the plan ever been properly trained how to do so? How can we blame a person for omitting something that management did not have the discipline to teach them? Yet it happens all the time…

In my experience, the construction industry as a whole needs to be more disciplined in this area. When I began doing design, I was plopped in the chair, given an Alpine manual and told “You are a smart guy, figure it out”. I have shop and jobsite experience coming in, but no plan reading experience. Eventually, after a few months I did figure it out, but not before a few costly mistakes were made along the way. There is nothing like walking out to a jobsite to go fix what you messed up. It’s embarrassing, humbling and was also a giant learning experience.

How you can apply discipline in your business

As employers and leaders in the construction industry, it is up to us to discipline ourselves to provide the best possible resources and training applications available to our employees. This is something I firmly believe in and have spent tens of thousands of dollars on year over year as a discipline. I never want anyone to have to go through what I did, as some might not succeed.

I have taken this attitude of discipline and turned it into an action of discipline which has allowed my company to create a fully comprehensive designer training system that encompasses all aspects of construction. The beauty of it is that it can be catered to any individual skill set, from a seasoned veteran, to the brand new person with no experience whatsoever. But don’t take my word for it! Check the Professional Development section of this blog to hear it from those who have been exposed to it. Contact me for details and pricing.

Is discipline in your business an attitude or an action? Or it is both? Share your thoughts below.