For some of you, fall was cold and kept you busy. For others, it was one of the warmest autumns seen in a while.

But now that winter is in full gear, many of you should be busy.

When you’re busy, some of your employees may think they can get away with things that they normally wouldn’t do. They think they are indispensable this time of year. After all, it’s cold and much of the country has been hit by snowstorms.

What are you going to do if you fire them? They think that you will be so lost without them and lose customers that you wouldn’t think of firing them for a break in normal policy.

Hopefully, they’re wrong.

It is at this very busy time of year that you have to pay close attention and discipline as you would do in a slower time of year. Just as you can’t make rules for just some employees, you can’t make rules for different times of the year.

Here are some things to remember:

1. Have a written policy manual that is read and signed off by everyone.

They will know what behaviors are expected. This is the first step in creating a good working environment for your employees - a working environment where employees know that they are all treated fairly, know what is expected of them and know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules. Discipline is in place and followed.

2. No one is indispensable.

Even your best employees can get hit by a truck tomorrow and be hurt - or worse - dead. What would happen if they weren’t there? Everyone is replaceable, including you. You can’t discipline out of fear that an employee could leave. That totally undermines your ability to keep control and a fair working environment for all of your employees.

3. Everyone makes mistakes.

Even your best technicians and office workers make mistakes every once in a while. We’re all human. The best thing that can happen is that employees learn from their mistakes and they don’t happen again. So always discipline with that in mind. Discuss the situation with employees. If they don’t realize that it was a mistake, point out why and find out what they will do to not let it happen again.

4. Enforce the rules for all of your employees.

You can’t enforce the rules for some of your employees and not others. If you do, those that are favored will know it and potentially take advantage of it. Those that are out of favor will know it too, and feel that they are getting unfair treatment. This will destroy morale at your company and may cost you thousands in legal fees.

5. Catch them doing things right and say something.

Employees always like compliments. Catching them doing something right takes only a few seconds. And you are likely to get that behavior reinforced. This is positive discipline.

6. If you see something wrong you need to say something - immediately.

The worst thing that you can do is not to say something. The employees may not realize that they did something wrong. If you don’t say something, then they think that they got away with something and the bad behavior is likely to be reinforced. It is tougher to have a negative discussion than a positive one. However, you want to make sure employees knows that something was done wrong and that it needs not to happen again or be corrected. Other employees are watching how you or other managers handle problems. You’ve got to handle the problems as quickly as you handle the positive actions.

7. Learn how to best communicate with your employees.

Different people react differently to discussions. Some you can be very direct with. Around others you may have to be more tactful. Some will take it personally. Others will realize that you are not attacking them but the behavior on the job. Some employees you can raise your voice to; others won’t listen. Fair and equitable discipline is tough. However, it is critical for your company’s long-term growth and success.

Copyright 2007, Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.