How to Reprimand an Employee

Let’s all be clear about one thing: we all make mistakes. But when you’re in charge of a team of people, sometimes simple blunders can be infuriating. Maybe you lose your temper and can’t help but lash out, but that ultimately leads to strained relationships – something you never want to happen inside the company.

But is reprimanding truly necessary in office settings? Will it help an employee improve their character and attitude towards work?

For several human relations experts, reprimanding an employee are a sign of failure. Reprimands are done for punishment and that form of treatment is never a long-term strategy in changing behavior or performance.

But the thing when running a business is: when an employee is, for example, constantly late within one workweek, you have to take the necessary actions to address it. Meaning, it’s an issue you can’t ignore because companies have rules that employees should follow, and one of the most important ones is to come to work on time.

So if your employee demonstrates unwanted behavior consecutive times, how do you go about reprimanding them for their actions?

Establish Rules in an Employment Manual

Every company should have a manual that describe in detail what’s expected of an employee. Also included in that manual is clear descriptions on the disciplinary procedure should an employee commit a mistake. Employment experts believe that the disciplinary system should be a progressive one containing a series of warnings along with instructions on correcting the issue.

Although not every employee responds the same way, most are willing to take constructive criticism which highlights what they did wrong, along with opportunities on how they can fix it. Most of the problems with enforcing employee disciplinary action is that workers aren’t told what they have done wrong, they are not given a chance to fix the situation and worst of all, the policies set by the employer are not followed or is not implemented uniformly.

By having rules in place, an employee is aware that, say, being late three times is tantamount to a verbal warning for a first offense. The next time it happens, maybe a written warning will be in place. A third occurrence might result in suspension. And what is written should be enforced as well. This way, employees know you mean business and that there are consequences to violating corporate policy.

Emphasize Actions or Behaviors, Not Attitude

When talking to an employee about their behavior, don’t outright tell them the reason they couldn’t get a job done is because they are lazy. Or, that they constantly get into trouble because they have a bad attitude. That is a completely wrong approach to take when dealing with a problem caused by the employee. When supervisors act this way, they are attacking the person, and as a result, this creates defensiveness in an employee.

Be Very Specific

How you phrase your words matters a lot no matter what setting you’re in. So rather than tell your employee straight to their face, “You’re always late,” be very specific. How can you be really specific exactly? Do it this way:

Tell them something along the lines of “In the past week, you have been late two times. On Monday, you were late for [x] minutes and on Wednesday you were late for [y].”

This way, you can foster a communication about why they are always late. From there, you two can brainstorm on how best to deal with their tardiness problem. Or, any other problem for that matter.

Remind Them Of The Standard

Sometimes, employee manuals are taken for granted. This is why you should constantly remind your employees about being on time for work. Explain to them that they are need at the office at a specific time because your business can’t function as expected with one key piece missing.

Ask For a Commitment From An Employee To Change

Whether it be relating to tardiness or being unable to submit before or on the deadline, you need to have an agreement with an employee about the need for them to change. While you may think that having a chronic latecomer is a permanent syndrome, that is totally not the case. People can change their habits and it only takes a little encouragement and some help for them to pull it off.

You see, asking an employee to change rather than firing them immediately is one of the best courses of action you can take. When you seek a new hire, you have to go through the whole recruitment process again and you also have to devote additional hours for training again as well.

So try and work it out first before resulting in drastic decisions.

Offer a Way To Help An Employee

Let’s take the example of a chronically late employee to emphasize this point. While others may not want you prying on personal lives, it helps for managers to know the family situation, as well as other personal details of every employee under their management. For one, it helps them better understand the person.

Jose Mourinho, returning for a second spell as manager of Chelsea FC in the Premier League, is notable for knowing personal details about his employees. One could venture he uses it to get to know them or maybe even use it to motivate them. Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic played for Mourinho at Inter Milan and he illustrated in his autobiography I am Zlatan just how Mourinho uses his knowledge of a players’ personal life.

Zlatan was to be awarded but before that day came, his club had a game. The star forward wasn’t having a particularly good game. Mourinho approached the Swede and asked him about him receiving an award. And then immediately told him to give it to someone more deserving because he has done absolutely nothing on the pitch. While that may seem harsh to some, it had an effect an Zlatan and he performed better.

Phil Jackson, who led to Chicago Bulls to six championships and the Los Angeles Lakers to five, also had a different way of dealing with a problematic player. Dennis Rodman was known for his different ways, and apparently, he was also late to practices. This is a no-no in any basketball team. But during Rodman’s stint with the San Antonio Spurs, Greg Popovich (then general manager) would fine the eccentric forward thousands of dollars for his tardiness. When Rodman was traded to the Bulls, Jackson fined him for single figures and made him shoot free throws. Apparently, that sat well with Rodman.

While those are sports examples, they can still be applied in the corporate world. For example, if an employee has several kids and lives in an area with bad transport links, come up with solutions and test them out to see which one works best for the employee. And of course, if changes do happen and are more constant, then don’t forget to praise the employee or offer rewards.

Bottom Line

Reprimanding an employee is not a fun thing for supervisors to do, but can be productive when done in a proper manner.