Q: “My boss tends to let discipline problems go until they are serious. He says that he prefers a ‘hands-off’ approach to management, but what it really means is he avoids conflict. Some of my coworkers know he won’t do anything so they come in late, leave early and only do the minimum amount of work.  Is there anything I can do to help him?”

A: Whether his intent is to give employees the benefit of the doubt, just wants to be friends, doesn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or is simply bad at resolving conflict, it’s important to note that a key part of the manager’s job is to hold people accountable.

Your boss’ personality may make it difficult for him to address this problem, but he needs to realize — “What we allow, we tend to encourage.”

If he lets employees come in late without consequence, they will continue to be tardy. When a coworker says something inappropriate and no one corrects him, he will do it again, and probably say something even worse.

If there is no company policy for disciplinary procedures, your manager may need some guidance, or even a crutch, to help him take the actions needed. A “Disciplinary Report Form” may help him provide written documentation of the offense, as well as provide a record of the discussion. By having a written form, the process only takes a few minutes, and the manager is less likely to feel that he’s making a personal attack. The form can have check boxes for a variety of offenses, provide blanks for comments and include a space for signatures.

For a sample of this type of form, e-mail me at don@dontyler.com, and I’ll forward one to him or anyone else who requests it. Making a written record of an offense and discussing corrective actions can be a powerful deterrent.

Additionally, tell your boss about some of the specific things that have gotten progressively worse among fellow workers. Then suggest possible ways to intervene and provide any support that you can to help him get motivated to take action.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.