How to Properly Reprimand Employees

Reprimanding an employee can be one of your most daunting tasks as a supervisor or boss. On one hand, a tongue-lashing could demoralize your subordinate to the extent his productivity declines and his teamwork spirit fades. On the other hand, some employees may not fully comprehend the need to improve their performance if you sugarcoat the message to avoid hurting their feelings. However, with the right tact, you can reprimand your employees professionally to enable them understand the need to improve their performance without hurting their morale.

Start positively

The session should not be all about the employee’s negative attributes but should also note his positive contributions in the organization. Let the employee understand that you are impressed by his accomplishments in the company – it will help him see that the reprimanding is not subjective but meant to help them rectify their weaknesses. Using “I” messages, such as, “I liked your work on last month’s project” shows the sincerity of your compliments; the same technique should be used when reprimanding the employee.

State facts of story

Next, state out the facts of the complaint including the specific mistake committed by the subordinate, date the mistake was committed and repercussions for the offence. Doing so objectively frames the reprimand as a valid issue that company has to address. Avoid the use of “You” messages while communicating with the employee because this is a recipe for lower worker morale or conflict. Sentences, such as, “You were wrong to miss work with no permission” should not be part of your dialogue.

Listen to employee’s defense

After informing the concerned employees of your concerns about their conduct, give them an opportunity to give their side of the story. Chances are that the accusations are untrue, exaggerated or committed due to unavoidable circumstances. This will help determine the actions to be taken against him. Do not interrupt them while talking and avoid assuming a negative body language, such as, frowning facial gestures or sunken shoulders. This will either convince the subordinate that he has no chance of a fair hearing or that you are uninterested in hearing his defense.

Respond appropriately

If his explanation satisfies you, let the employee off the hook but with a warning that the company will not condone such conduct again, possibly leading to the employee’s dismissal if repeated. More action steps are needed in case the employee pleads guilty to the allegations. Formulate strategies to help him eradicate the flaws from his performance, such as, development of benchmarks determining improvement and timelines for the same. End the meeting by reinforcing the employee’s positive attributes; he walks away understanding that the company values him and only needs him to correct certain facets of his performance.

To err is human and your employees are no exception. At the end of your meeting, the way you point it out to them could earn you either determined employee intent on improving or those with lower morale and hard feelings. Meet the employee privately to avoid the embarrassment of reprimanding him in front of colleagues. Keep it on a positive lane and your message will precisely hit home with your desired results.


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