The system allows management and the employee who has committed an offence to accept another form of corrective action instead of traditional discipline. This may include participation in support classes, holiday donations, community service, apologies, etc. It should enable problems that avoid the costs and wasted time resulting from the use of formal claims systems to be resolved quickly and contribute to a more positive solution to problems, both from the point of view of management and from the point of view of staff. It is not used in situations where distance is justified or where legal sanctions apply to the offence. AD agreements must be concluded in writing and signed by the staff and the competent administrator. The Human Resources department took over the management philosophy of Dr. Edward Deming and studied the employee and labour relations function to determine what could be done more effectively. The conclusion was that the traditional system of discipline created a hostile and confrontational environment for superiors and employees and rarely led to changes in behaviour. In addition, it was costly and inefficient to suspend employees from their workplaces. The Agency relied on a McDonald-Douglas Corporation program and other programs within the Navy to develop the constructive discipline process (see also Constructive Discipline Program at the Naval Surface Warfare Center). This is normally the next step in progressive discipline according to written warnings Alternative discipline involves taking steps in place of traditional discipline to correct mistakes, without resorting to more expensive formal procedures and litigation. Agency guidelines vary, but alternative discipline is generally used when a formal sanction would be more minor, such as a reprimand or suspension of 14 days or less.

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