When reprimanding, what you do is often not as important as what you don’t do. Since no one really enjoys a reprimand, it’s easy for people to be put on the defensive when receiving criticism. I suggest remembering these “don’ts” when you must reprimand an individual. If you don’t observe these points, you may find that people become less concerned with listening to you and more concerned with fighting you off.
1. Don’t attack someone personally. Never begin a reprimand with a statement such as, “Listen Fred, you idiot, …” Address the problem at hand. Be specific about what was done incorrectly. It is never okay to insult a person just because you are upset.
2. Don’t store up reprimands. By this I mean don’t wait “for a good time” to deliver one or more reprimands. The best time to give a reprimand is immediately after the incorrect behavior or action has occurred. If you wait a week or so to discuss the problem with the individual, and then throw in some other problems you have observed in the past months, your impact on that person’s behavior will not be very effective. Accumulated griefs and problems will only make you feel bad. When you do finally “dump” on the person, there will be so much to digest, and the error so far removed from the actual event, you’ll just end up blowing off a lot of steam, which will have little or no impact or effect on behavior.
3. Don’t threaten people. Such threats will either immobilize them with fear or cause considerable resentment. Stick to the point. Point out the error or incorrect behavior. Then reaffirm them by telling them they’re okay—but their actions need to be modified.
4. Don’t reprimand people in public. Public fireworks, such as chewing out an employee in front of a customer, is a technique used only by bullies. It’s thoughtless, damaging, and embarrassing for everyone. If you have occasion to reprimand a person, do it privately.
Before you give a reprimand—think! If someone has done something wrong you must ask yourself, “Should he or she have known better?” If the answer is “No” then the person is obviously still unfamiliar with his or her assigned responsibilities or task. In this case, Do Not Reprimand. Never reprimand a beginner—be it an experienced employee working in a new position or your own child learning to tie his shoelaces. It will only cause confusion or outright discouragement. In this instance, your role as a manager is to help, or redirect, the person who is having a problem.
However, if a person should have known better, then you must ask yourself, “Did they make the mistake deliberately, or might it have been because they lacked confidence?” If the problem revolves around confidence, Do Not Reprimand. You need to determine the reason for the problem causing this lack of confidence. It could be that there is a new situation which is unsettling to an experienced worker. For example, perhaps a long-time sales clerk makes many errors on the new cash register. If so, the reason is probably a lack of confidence with the buttons or the new routine required when ringing up sales. In such a situation, a supportive managerial style is required. No one needs to reprimand this clerk. Rather, the clerk needs some training and some practice on the new register, coupled with support from an understanding boss. Reprimands have no place in this example.
Remember to only reprimand deliberate, regressive performance or behavior.