Formal Disciplinary Procedures and Conflict Resolution Remedies: Availability and the Effects of Size and City Manager among North Carolina Municipalities

By Daley, Dennis M. | Public Personnel Management, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview

Formal Disciplinary Procedures and Conflict Resolution Remedies: Availability and the Effects of Size and City Manager among North Carolina Municipalities


Daley, Dennis M., Public Personnel Management


This study focuses on the extent to which formal disciplinary practices are used in North Carolina municipal governments. In addition to mapping out the availability of these formal procedures, the conditions and circumstances in which they occur are also explored. Formal discipline procedures (including aspects related to the performance appraisal systems) and some of the conflict resolution remedies (suggestion systems, whistleblower protection, counseling, and drug and alcohol assistance) designed to correct or prevent disciplinary problems and to avoid potential grievances are examined.

North Carolina is a South Atlantic state noted for its efforts at growth and development. It is the tenth most populous state in the Union. In general, it possesses a reputation for development in which changes are carefully evaluated. State policy has been consciously directed to this end for a number of decades (Key, 1949; Luebke, 1990). In contrast to a national survey, a survey focused on a single state controls for many of the differences inherent in regional, economic, and political structures.

North Carolina, like most Southern states, however, is not generally noted for progressive labor-management relations policies. The state prohibits public sector collective bargaining by law and has a rather negative view of employee organizations in general (Kearney, 1984; Schneider, 1988). Since unions are an important factor in the adoption of disciplinary and grievance procedures, this places a severe limit on this study. It also provides an unique opportunity. In a manner of speaking, the state's policy automatically controls for the effect of public sector unionization. Hence, the results examined here are free from any direct, indirect, or interactive effects due to unionization. Because of its extreme position, North Carolina serves as a baseline on the provision of disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Furthermore, the survey includes communities of all sizes rather than being limited to those over 25,000 or 50,000 as is often the case with national municipal surveys. This leads to findings which depict the personnel practices in small as well as large municipalities. Only twenty-two of North Carolina's municipalities have populations larger than 25,000; for the most part, this is a state of small towns. This study's inclusion of so many small towns is in marked contrast to that reported in most published research. This should provide an interest that goes beyond the state's boundaries.

A renewed interest in local government management has been manifest in recent years. Frank Thompson's Personnel Policy in the City (1975) represents one of the first of these efforts devoted to the problems of municipal personnel management. On a practical level, the International City Management Association (ICMA) has made a regular and conscientious contribution with its Municipal Yearbook, Municipal Management and Practical Management series. In these efforts personnel management has received prominent attention. The International Personnel Management Association has also engaged in numerous activities focusing on municipal management.

Underlying these efforts is the realization of the substantial role which personnel management plays in organizational effectiveness. The modern personnel techniques examined in this study are linked to the efforts at administrative professionalization. As such, they are ultimately focused on enhancing individual and organizational productivity.

Analysis is performed with respect to two factors. The effect of city (population) and organizational (workforce) size and of governmental structure (the presence of a professional city manager or town administrator) on these personnel practices is studied.

Research indicates that size is related to structure (Pugh, Hickson, Hinnings, and Turner, 1969; Blau, 1970; Blau and Schoenherr, 1971; Meyer, 1972; Mintzberg, 1983). …

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