Hot Stove Rule in Management


The Hot Stove Rule is a commonly adopted management principle. It was proposed by Douglas Murray McGregor in the early 60s. McGregor was an influential personality in the management world. His book The Human Side of Enterprise (published in 1960) is known for the intense influence it had on education practices.
The principle, the Hot Stove Rule, is an analogy between breaching company discipline and touching a hot stove. In the principle, McGregor has illustrated how an employer can impose disciplinary actions on its employees without creating the feeling of resentment or annoyance in them. The central idea of the principle is that the rational and effective employee discipline can be maintained by punishing employees for breach of discipline in ways similar to touching a hot stove.

Features of Hot Stove Rule

As compared to a hot stove, McGregor has put forward four major features of undergoing discipline.


<< Any person who has been warned about the consequences of touching a red hot stove would never dare to demonstrate. >>

 No one would like to experience the consequences of violating policies or norms of the company after they have been clearly warned.

Immediate consequence

<< You get burned immediately if you touch a red hot stove. It does not matter, if you are touching it for the first time or without consciousness, you get burned as soon as you touch it. >>

An effective disciplinary action must occur promptly so that the individual can see the clear connection between the reactions with their actions.


<< No matter how many times you touch a hot stove, it burns you always. >>

Disciplinary action does not distort, for the same fault committed again. In simple words, you will be subjected to penalty every time you commit the mistake.


<< Whoever touches the stove, gets burned. >>

Discipline should have connection with the offense, not the person who commits it. Anyone who violates policies is accountable to the punishment, irrespective of the position he/she holds.

Points to remember

  • The employer should not fail to make its employees aware of the rules and regulations of the company.
  • Employees must be provided detailed warning of disciplinary actions in advance.
  • Employees should be provided with the company’s code of conduct so that they would not be able to deny knowledge of those rules.
  • Disciplinary actions must be taken immediately; the company should never ignore any act of violence or wait for the most convenient time to take action.
  • Disciplinary actions must be the same for all the employees, regardless the post he/she holds in the company or the relationship he/ she has with the superiors and supervisors.
  • Disciplinary actions must be flexible and progressive in nature whereby the level of penalty depends upon the weight and frequency of the mistake.
  • The company should not show excessive leniency while taking any corrective actions, or else the employees will show more negligence.
  • Also, the company should not be excessively harsh because it creates dissatisfaction.
  • Once the disciplinary act is taken, the supervisor must show normal behavior and attitude towards the employees.
  • Disciplinary actions must never be used as the mode to satisfy personal whims.