How hot is the stove?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Freddie Davis
  • 319th Civil Engineer Squadron
How hot is the stove? Literally, we know it can be very hot, but as part of discipline it means something entirely different.

The "Hot Stove Rule" is one view of discipline.

This approach is in terms of what happens when a person touches a hot stove. The consequences are:

1. Warning System. Before any behavior has occurred, a good manager or supervisor has communicated what the consequences of the undesirable behavior are.

2. Immediate Burn. If discipline is required, it must occur immediately after the undesirable act is observed. The person must see the connection between the act and the discipline.

3. Consistency. There are no favorites - stoves burn everyone alike. Anyone who performs the same undesirable act will be disciplined similarly.

4. Impersonality. Disciplinary action is not pointed toward a person; it is meant to eliminate undesirable behaviors.

The Warning System starts with guidance and expectations clearly defined. Simple things such as "When does the duty day start?" or "When does lunch begin and end?" shouldn't be taken for granted.

The Immediate Burn doesn't have to be of the drastic, life-threatening third-degree variety. The degree should match the wrongdoing, but understand that the stove gets hotter as offenses progress. For a first minor offense the supervisor's reaction could be a simple acknowledgement of the transgression. When I was a young Airman a quick glance and a couple words from my flight chief were more than enough to drive the point home that my behavior wasn't acceptable. There wasn't a second offense. Don't wait until a formal feedback session or performance report to address discipline issues. Correct them as they occur.

Consistency is key. All supervisors should be playing from the same set of rules. Mixed messages are self-defeating and often harm morale and disciplinary efforts more so than the wrongdoing. Yes, situations and personnel are different and should be treated as such, but be cautious about varying your reaction and strive to remain steady.

Discipline should always be Impersonal. It should never be the supervisor or manager against the Airman, real or perceived. It's about correcting behavior. If you're being consistent then it should be easy to see that it's "TSgt Y" addressing a wrongdoing by "Airman Z," not a personal attack or vendetta. Supervisors should use the leadership chain as a sounding board to make sure they keep their actions within acceptable and expected boundaries.

This is just one technique of many. Our Airmen are our most valuable asset and you should use the one that's right for you, them, and the situation at hand.

Regardless of what leadership, discipline, or management technique you choose to employ, it should be done to create a ready, mission-capable, professional force.

And it's all with the aspiration of not getting too close to the Hot Stove.