No one likes to discipline team members, but eventually you’ll face a gut-wrenching moment when you have to enforce the organization’s rules.
Here are some guidelines to help you discuss rule-breaking behavior fairly and effectively:
1. Define the rule clearly. With new rules, hold a team meeting to discuss how they’ll influence day-to-day activities. When enforcing a long-standing rule, be sure that both you and the rule-breaker understand it fully. This ensures no one violates a rule twice because of ignorance.
2. Discuss its purpose. Many people don’t understand either the required behavior or the reason behind a specific rule. Others need coaching on how a seemingly unimportant rule—a dress code for example—can change the team, or even the entire organization for the better.
3. Itemize violations and ask for explanations. Replace phrases like “you always” or “you never” with specific instances of violations. Listen carefully for the employee’s reason, which often helps you to devise ways to fix the problem (as well as alerting you to truly extenuating, forgivable circumstances).
4. Encourage the rule-breaker to self-correct. This helps two ways: the employee may come up with alternatives you wouldn’t have; and the process gives the person greater ownership of the solution—and thus more interest in seeing it succeed.
5. Establish a plan for compliance or further disciplinary steps. Depending on context and circumstances, you may decide an infraction deserves only an informal warning. However, if the infraction is major, give the rule-breaker a clear view of the behavior about which you’re requiring a timeline for compliance, and the consequences of any further violation.