As a leader in the workplace, you have a lot of responsibility resting on your shoulders. You have to keep your team motivated. You have to direct your followers towards success. You ensure that everyone is on the same page, striving for the same goal, and working in a productive, efficient manner.
The role of a leader can be very rewarding, but sometimes you have to make the tough calls, one of which is reprimanding poor performance and misconduct. These situations are never enjoyable, but with the right approach, they can be turned into a positive experience that motivates the employee, strengthens the leader/follower relationship, and boosts the overall morale.
To ensure the best results from an unpleasant situation, here are six easy steps for you to follow.
ADDRESS THE ISSUE IMMEDIATELY
One late clock in or one overdue report isn’t enough to justify a sit-down with the employee, especially if that employee is normally on time. But a string of infractions needs to be addressed immediately. A more severe offense, such as a workplace dispute or a blatant refusal to follow direction, should be addressed on the first time.
If you sit on an issue and let it continue without reprimanding, you risk the employee making a habit out of poor performance while causing damage to your reputation as a leader. Don’t let any problems slide by. When you notice something out of place, act immediately.
Once you have notified the employee of the problem and have sat down with them in a private setting, it’s important that you present your criticism in a frank manner. Leave no questions on the table. State exactly what the employee did wrong, make it very clear that the offense will not be tolerated, and say precisely how you expect them to correct it.
Sometimes we want to present our criticism in a more light-hearted manner to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, but doing so may not convey a clear message, and the employee may continue to commit the offense.
Bottom line: don’t sugarcoat the issue. Tell it how it is.
Just because you’re criticizing the employee’s performance doesn’t mean you have to tear them down. In fact, this is one of the most important times to build the employee up, because the truth is, an employee worth reprimanding is an employee worth keeping. Take a moment to highlight their strengths. Let them know that you appreciate their contributions to the company, and encourage them, in a positive way, to improve in the areas they need to.
ALLOW THE EMPLOYEE TO RESPOND
There are two sides to every story, and it’s important you let the employee tell their side. It’s always possible that you may have missed an important fact that might give some added insight into the employee’s actions.
Not only that, even if the employee is in the wrong, you always want to keep an open line of communication. By allowing the employee to respond to your reprimand, you give them a fair opportunity to explain their reasons (justified or not), ask any questions, and discuss the entire scope of the issue so they can walk away with a full understanding of what to do next.
DOCUMENT THE MEETING
While you shouldn’t let one offense skew your opinion about an employee (within reason), it’s still important that any reprimand is documented. You’ll want to keep a record of the initial problem, how it was handled, and the steps the employee agreed to take in order to improve.
Documenting a reprimand isn’t meant to be a “black mark” on an employee’s record. But you will need to have it on file in case there are repeat offenses. This will not only allow you to justify any subsequent disciplinary action, but will protect you during any litigation that might arise if the employee has to be terminated.
END ON GOOD TERMS
Once you have clearly addressed the problem, and both you and the employee have agreed to proper course of action to fix the issue, be sure to end the meeting in a positive manner. Let the employee know that just because their actions have been reprimanded, that doesn’t make them any less valuable or worthwhile to the company.
If the meeting ends on a bad note, the employee may begin to resent you as a leader, which will only cause more problems in the future. It’s the mark of a good leader to send an employee away from a disciplinary meeting feeling encouraged, motivated, and appreciative.
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