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When should you give a reprimand?

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Being able to give an effective reprimand when an employee misbehaves or fails to perform is an important management skill. But it's only a useful skill when you have reason to be confident that reprimands will actually change behavior and produce positive results. Otherwise, they can be counterproductive, harming your relationship with employees without producing any benefits.

There's more to reprimanding effectively than knowing what steps to follow and what phrases to use. Most important of all is understanding when to reprimand. You need to know not only when a reprimand seems needed, but also when it's appropriate—the right thing to do, and something that is likely to produce positive change. Before you go ahead and reprimand, ask yourself if the following conditions apply:

  • An employee does not perform an assigned task or violates a rule or standard of conduct.
  • There is no question that the assignment, rule or standard was clearly understood.
  • Performing the assignment or complying with the rule or standard was within the employee's ability.
  • The employee has made a definite commitment to perform up to expectations or to comply with rules and standards.
  • The employee acknowledges and respects your authority to correct performance or enforce rules and standards.
If any of these things is missing, then don't reprimand—it may seem deserved, and it may be well within your right to do so, but it won't work. Instead, go back and fix the situation.

Clarify the assignment, upgrade the employee's skills and understanding, get the employee's commitment—whichever is necessary in this particular case. Then give the employee another opportunity to perform or comply. Seven times out of 10, this approach will solve the problem. And 10 times out of 10, it will help you make sure that when you do reprimand, you're doing the right thing.

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