A good manager understands that disciplining employees is part of the job, but a great manager recognizes that discipline is not synonymous with punishment. In most instances, discipline should be used to correct behavior rather than to punish it.
Almost every employee wants to be productive and succeed in the workplace. They need guidance and understanding more than threats and warnings. To prevent future problems in the workplace and improve your management skills, implement these respectful employee disciplinary steps.
Avoid Talking Down to Employees
When discussing problematic behavior, talk to the employee as a peer. Communicating on an equal level shows respect and trust. Although your job is to correct behavioral issues, recognize that treating your employees well, even in disciplinary situations, should come first.
Work with the employee to solve the problem by asking for input and opinions. Involve the employee in development of a solution. By discussing the situation together, you give them a chance to create their own correctional path, which is more likely to be followed than orders given without discussion. This lets the employee work out issues in their own way.
Communicate without Anger
Approach the situation logically, rather than emotionally. Anger causes employees to feel attacked personally. Have a calm discussion to get to the root of the problem in an impassionate yet productive way. Use a firm but soft voice to discuss the behavioral issue.
If you communicate with sensible points and remove anger from the conversation, you keep the employee from an emotional response. Behaving professionally is often reactive. Your approach sets the bar and lets the employee follow your lead on how to react to the disciplinary discussion. Unemotional confrontation allows the employee to talk rationally about issues and form solutions in a professional manner.
Explain Why the Behavior Is a Problem
Give the employee the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this disciplinary step.
Employees often do not know how their behavior affects others. State why the behavior is causing an issue and some of the reasons you felt the need to address it. When people become aware of the impact of their actions and understand how it affects others, they immediately want to fix it.
Explaining why the behavior is a problem does not mean telling the employee, “Your actions annoy others.” Construct your explanation to fit the workplace, not personal situations. An alternative would be to explain, “Your actions cause disruptions that prevent others from feeling productive.” Rephrasing your approach prevents the employee from feeling targeted personally.
Use Corrective Measures, Not Threatening Statements
Most people want to improve and become a better employee. Scaring them into correct behavior will work only temporarily. Threats do not show that you value your team, and punishment is not instructive—it does not show the person how to improve. For a more permanent solution, use corrective measures that explain the next steps you expect the employee to follow. Providing a detailed explanation for improvement focuses on the positive rather than the negative that appears in most disciplinary reviews.
Guide Employee through Correctional Steps
Walk through the problem and solution together with employees when offering correctional steps. Working together ensures that you are both on the same page and comprehend the issues and the actions needed to fix them. Talking through these steps together averts any possible misunderstandings about what you expect.
Walking through the correctional steps also helps the employee understand how the choices made lead to the issue and how to avoid making poor decisions in the future. Showing them how they reached the point of needing disciplinary action helps them recognize their behavioral patterns and get to the root of the problem.
Get All Sides to the Story
Before you end a disciplinary meeting, find out if there are reasons behind the behavioral issues. Are outside problems contributing? Is another employee instigating the behavior? Understanding prevents you from making snap judgments that could be misinformed. And it is possible that the problem stems from other employees or at least partially involves their coworkers. Getting all sides of the stories stops you from making a snap judgment that could be off base or misguided.
Finish with Positive Discipline
Finish the discipline meeting by recognizing the employee’s hard work and any good behavior that they have shown so that the employee does not leave the discussion feeling negative and angry. Positive discipline reinforces good behaviors and lets employees know that you are aware of the good work they have done. This is a much more active management style and forms a stronger bond between you and your employees. Practicing positive discipline shows that you value the employee and motivates them to improve without having to resort to fear tactics.
While disciplining your employees is never pleasant, it helps build a more efficient, functional workplace. Understanding how to implement constructive disciplinary steps makes you a better manager and shows employees that you are invested in their success.
By Bill McCrary