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How to Discipline Employees in Five Steps

When a problem behavior is identified among your employees, you need to act. Whether the behavior is theft, tardiness, or underperformance, you need to respond appropriately to the problematic situation. While by no means an easy task, here are a few helpful suggestions when getting around to addressing employee issues.

Act Immediately

Your motivation for not acting immediately could stem from the fact that you’re busy, you are afraid of conflict, or it is your personal belief that the misbehavior is not serious enough to warrant your attention. However, administering discipline is about correcting wrongs, and this should be done as soon as possible. When you delay, you send the message that the offending behavior is not serious. Try to disregard the feelings of unpleasantness associated with your task. Keep in mind that other employees may be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of underperforming employees if the behavior is not caught and dealt with right away.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Your feelings about the situation may present a roadblock to successful communication. Similarly, it is not productive to worry about whether discipline will come across as hurtful to the employee or whether you are stepping on others’ toes by getting your message across. Get control over your anger, dread, or insecurity before confronting the employee. A calm and relaxed demeanor while delivering a reprimand sends the message that you know what you’re doing and that what you’re doing is right. Delivering a message when you are angry, confused, confrontational, or hurt will undermine your message and signal to the employee that you are coming from a place of emotions that are personal to you, rather than realities that are relevant to the situation.

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Always Discipline Employees in Private

A sense of shame is inherent to the process of being disciplined, and there is no need to add to these unproductive emotions. The added humiliation of being reprimanded in front of others may contribute to an employee’s feelings of being singled out, being unfairly treated, or having the situation become personal. The resentment that results from this situation may worsen problem behaviors in the future.

Exercise Consistency When Dealing With All Employees

A common scenario that crops up involves a manager who may take a relaxed stance toward her employees, only to find out that the approach isn’t working. When that manager attempts to implement a new approach, employees recognize the lack of consistency and become resentful that the status quo they were accustomed to has changed. Resentment issues will also work their way into employee and management relations if some employees are reprimanded for behaviors other employees can get away with. A lack of consistency and a misapplication of punishment will result in resentment and job disengagement.

Do Not Get Drawn Into Arguments

When admonishing an employee, deliver your message clearly, inform your employee of the consequences the problem behavior could have, and seek to inspire the employee to perform better. Employees may be tempted to drudge up past conversations, engage in unproductive back-and-forth arguments, or point out the misbehaviors of others to reaffirm the unfairness of the situation. When the conversation devolves into these types of tangents, repeat what you have planned to say in the simplest language possible and emphasize the finality of your message. Do not allow yourself to engage with red herrings and side issues.

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Disciplining employees may seem like an arduous task. In order to do so professionally, it is key to avoid falling into a situation that invites confrontation, emotion, and arguments. A well-thought-out plan of action is the best assurance that this scenario will play out to your advantage.