• September 30, 2020
  • compromise

How many times we have found ourselves in that difficult where we were forced to decide:

  • To take action or not
  • To turn a blind eye or not
  • To forget it or not

It can occur in situations such as follows:

  • The staff came late at work.
  • He stayed on leave without informing.
  • He made serious blunder.
  • Customers complained a lot about him.
  • He has not met his target consecutively since four months.
  • He has argued with his boss impolitely.
  • He stole office property.
  • He forged documents to avoid being scolded.

Legal perspective versus reality

If the company was a state and rules like coming late is punishable were written in the constitution, we would be forced to take action. However, as employers we tend to turn a blind eye on transgression of company rules because if we fired the staff for every offence, then we would be hiring all year long.  Besides other remaining staffs would be de-motivated, we think. 

Hence, we compromise. 

Zero tolerance policy: the concept

“A zero tolerance policy is one which imposes strict punishment for infractions of a stated rule, with the intention of eliminating undesirable conduct. Zero-tolerance policies forbid persons in positions of authority from exercising discretion or changing punishments to fit the circumstances subjectively; they are required to impose a pre-determined punishment regardless of individual culpability, extenuating circumstances, or history. This pre-determined punishment, whether mild or severe, is always meted out.

“Zero-tolerance policies are studied in criminology and are common in formal and informal policing systems around the world. The policies also appear in informal situations where there may be sexual harassment or Internet misuse in educational and workplace environments. In 2014, the mass incarceration in the United States based upon minor offenses has resulted in an outcry on the use of zero tolerance in schools and communities.”

Many managers being fed up of compromising, think that zero tolerance should be put in practice in their companies. 

The zero scenario world

It would look like this:

  • The staff came in late so no matter what as per company policy his salary will be deducted.
  • He will be fined five days salary for every day he did not report to the company.
  • He will be fired with immediate effect as soon as his mistake unfolds.
  • He will be made to pay the customer from this pocket.
  • For every month he does not meet his target his salary will be frozen.
  • He will be sent on a week unpaid leave for every argument he has with his boss.
  • He will be handed to the police if he steals from the office even if it is 10 A4 size paper.
  • He will taken to court if he forges any document.

Such a company would be a nightmare to work.  However, it is not what zero tolerance at work means. 

Zero tolerance making it work

Samuel Greengard in a 1999 article showed that zero tolerance could work if used for major offences like  violence, drug use, fraud, and sexual harassment.  He says, “large firms such as Accenture, HCL, Google, IBM and Hewitt have been quite pro-active in ensuring a safe work environment for women. Most such companies have a multi-pronged approach so that women feel confident about approaching the grievance cell when needed. Such steps generate a lot of confidence in its people and are an important factor for employee morale. Zero tolerance gives genuine feeling of empowerment, better way to control undesirable behavior. Zero tolerance policies in the workplace reflect a larger societal backlash against unwanted behavior and actions. 

Creating an effective zero tolerance policy center on three concepts: developing the policy, and creating a means for enforcement; publishing written standards for what behaviors are and are not appropriate; and offering skills training to enhance desired workplace behavior while changing inappropriate behaviors and actions. An effective zero tolerance policy requires the support and buy-in of management, but also a good deal of input from the human resources department.

A company without zero tolerance

  • He hits his colleagues badly and no action is taken (this promotes violence).
  • He comes to work under substance and the boss turns a blind eye (drug use is ok as long as you perform).
  • He overprices purchase bills and the boss forgets it conveniently (this fosters a culture of fraud).
  • He keeps passing highly suggestive comments to female colleagues but the boss says nothing (sexual harassment is ok).


Therefore, in case of minor offences - we should compromise to some extent.

In case of major offences - we would adopt zero tolerance policy without doubt.

Authors: Mohan Ojha & Manohar Man Shrestha