In her book, The Up Side of Down, author Megan McArdle asserts that punishment is an important part of teaching in cases where people break the rules. In order for it to be successful, though, it must satisfy 4 principles:
- Should be immediate and brief (not crippling)
- Deviance must be consistently detected and dealt with
- No breaks. Punishment for every infraction – “Occasional mercy is not merciful”
- Punishment is teaching, not revenge. It should be focused on the positive, on the future.
Thoughts Joe and Wanda?
Joe Kerr: So it WAS okay for me to dock a day’s pay from my admin when she brought me warm coffee, right?
Wanda B. Goode: I can see how punishment might be appropriate to address things like procedure violations and other bad behavior. However, as the author points out, mistakes, such as technical errors and judgment errors do not warrant punishment. Rather, they require training, mentoring, additional practice, etc. Punishing can backfire. Certainly if the 4 principles above are not followed, I can see how it could do more harm than good.
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