Feared or Loved? – Effectively Disciplining Employees

Management requires many obvious skills – confidence, charisma, the ability to manage chaos. Many employees believe that a promotion to manager can be easily earned solely through their performance in their current position. But often overlooked are the interpersonal relations between a manager and his employees. A skilled senior manager must be able to engage and motivate his workforce, to inspire them to perform at their best. And when employees encounter issues, when they make mistakes, or when they step out of line, it’s imperative that you understand the best methods for effectively disciplining employees.

career mistakes

Step 1: Establish Clear Expectations

The best offense is a good defense. If you’re just starting your tenure as a senior manager, work to create a culture that rewards respect and top-notch performance. When your employees feel encouraged, they’ll strive to reach their goals, to support the company, and you. The majority of issues in the workplace stem from poor communication. Foster trust and cooperation within your team, and you can avoid many misunderstandings in the future.

Step 2: Understand the Circumstances

To err is human, sure. But if your employee’s mistakes are costing you time, effort, and resources, these need to be recognized and discussed. Consider this your employee’s first warning. When you first notice a troubling behavior, ask them – calmly – to chat about the situation. Perhaps it was simply a case of unclear instructions.

Or maybe they’re not satisfied with their current assignments. Whatever the circumstances, provide them with a reason for why this particular mistake can’t happen again. Then, offer them the opportunity to speak. Once both sides have been heard, take this chance to lay down the potential consequences for a second offense.

Step 3: Explain the Consequences

It’s human nature to jump to drastic conclusions when it comes to offenses in the workplace. Most people immediately fear termination, and many managers make the mistake of thinking the same. But not every issue is so easily solved by simply firing an employee. Furthermore, it may not even be necessary, and firing-and-hiring employees can be extremely costly for your company.

Try first to examine the impact of your employee’s actions on office and employees. Depending on the nature of your industry, some basic job requirements may be of higher importance than others. For example, if you work in a classic office setting with 9-5 hours, tardiness may be excusable from time to time, so long as the employee completes his work efficiently. But if your employee is consistently late to client meetings and it’s affecting his work and your firm’s reputation, this issue may be indicative of a bigger mismatch.

Work to find a solution that benefits all parties involved. Consider the following options:

  • Restructuring. Maybe your employee is underperforming. Are their existing skills and current duties a mismatch? By assigning them new tasks that work to their strengths (and also benefit your company), you could salvage this employee, and save yourself the hassle of finding a new one.
  • Change of Scenery. As adults, it’s expected that your staff respect and get along with one another. But it’s simply naive to ignore personality differences. If they’re clashing with another staff member, there may be a work-around that could simplify the work process and avoid any unnecessary animosity.
  • Suspension without pay. If your employee has clearly violated an important workplace policy, it might be an option to suspend them without pay. (Check first with your HR representative and legal team to see if. this solution is legal in your state or country.)
  • Termination. Some offenses are so detrimental to your agency that termination is necessary. If your employee has violated any laws, or committed an offense for which your company cannot consider keeping him on staff, this may be the only viable solution.

(For more serious situations, it might be wise to ask an HR representative to sit in on the meeting. If the offense is truly significant, consider asking your staff member to sign an official statement that he has been warned.)

Step 4: Follow Through

The senior manager who makes empty threats will never be taken seriously. No matter how difficult, it is important to be firm when it comes to enforcing punishment. When it comes time to discipline your employee, make sure to have a neutral third party – i.e. your HR representative – present. Explain as clearly as possible the terms agreed upon, and how to proceed according to your company’s guidelines. Work to stay objective and fair, and your staff members should learn from their mistakes.



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