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Discipling Contractors: The 'Double Standard' Syndrome & How to Avoid It

Problem: contractors at the site were complaining that the company was stricter with their employees than with the "house employees." This is a common problem. One of the reasons mentioned was a perceived double standard for imposing scrutiny and discipline. It was pointed out that when contractor employees committed a violation they'd get kicked off site while a company employee would only get a talking to or a letter in the file.

3 Solutions

1. Explain Any Differences in Treatment

Although it would be nice to be able to treat everybody exactly the same, this isn't always possible. If there is a difference in discipline, explain why. For example, when a contractor employee is kicked off a site he can usually get work at another site. (A person can come back to the same site with a different contracting company!) But when a house employee loses his job the consequences are more severe.

2. Pay Attention to Perceptions and Reality

Find out what's going on. Spend some time with contract employees. Let them know that you care about them like you do your own people.

3. Communicate, Communicate and Communicate Some More

Rumors are swift travelers. They spread faster than a wildfire during a drought. You'll never be able to head them all off but you can influence the minds of the people working at your site by regularly letting them know what's going on. A lack of trust is often no more than a lack of communication.


Accusations of double-standard discipline are often unfair and the product of a lack of communication. But, fair or unfair, such accusations can undermine your credibility and damage your capacity to exercise leadership. So you need to defuse them.