Leading After The Reprimand
You have done everything you could and are faced with the task of disciplining a staff member. Whether it’s a formal write-up, a verbal reprimand, or other form of re-direction, it is just as much what you do after these unfortunate occurrences as how you administered them.
Let’s assume you have done everything to train and coach the person, provided necessary resources, clear expectations, and guidance in how to move forward. How you close the situation and what occurs in the following few days can make this a positive impact for the employee, or let it erode into a toxic one for all.
Here are some strategies for leading after a reprimand:
- This is actually prior in planning the session out, but a good strategy is to have any concerns addressed towards the end of the workday if at all possible. An employee who has the rest of their workday ahead of them may stew about the issues, and not be engaged in a productive or positive mindset. Having this at the days end may help give the person some time before the next day to have any emotions settle down.
- De-personalize the situation. Let them know this is not about who they are, but the behaviors and actions that are falling short of the company’s expectations and/or culture. Again, tell them how much you appreciate them, and that they’re able to make these changes very easily.
- Re-emphasize that you believe in them. Let the person know the value they bring to the team, and that you are rooting for them to improve. Shake their hand, and look them sincerely in the eye to let them know you believe in them.
- Leave all this behind doors. Let them employee know that what was discussed remains between the both of you (or just between the two and you and others if another party is there). Inform them that because you value them you will not let anyone know about this to protect their integrity. Let them know that you expect the same in return. This will prevent staff from telling others about their issues, which can poison the culture, and create divisiveness among the team who will pick sides on the issue.
- Seek them out the next day, at the next opportunity. Many leaders will avoid the employee because they don’t want to bring the issue up again. That creates a wall between the two of you that cannot exist if the employee is to grow. Make it a point to visit them in their work area, ask how things are going today, engage in meaningful work or life talk that doesn’t mention the situation. When you leave, encourage them and let them know that if they need anything, to please seek you out.
- Follow-up in a few days on that commitment. Ask them how things are progressing and if there are any challenges they’re finding. Let them know what you are doing to help them. By being consistent on your promise for them to seek you out, you send a message that this is a culture you believe in and one they can believe in as well.
By making an person feel that they are supported will go a long way to calm any emotions or doubts and to build an employee back up. By staying engaged with them, they will most likely become willing to change, and potentially be even of more value to the team than they were before.
Make these situations opportunities to rescue a person, and not sweep them out the door. Give them every reason to succeed, and not any reason to feel they are unwanted.