How To Reprimand An Employee

Employers reprimand an employee when he/she makes mistakes. It is not that they don’t know they shouldn’t chew out their employee for making a mistake. But sometimes it so happens that you need to let things happen in such a way that they don’t make the same mistake another time. 

Even so, certain leadership consultants are of the opinion that reprimanding an employee or punishing them for doing something wrong will not work as a long-term strategy for changing their performance or behaviour. But when you see an employee making a grave mistake, like shouting at a customer even when he was in the wrong or arriving late purposely, there is something which you should do. Because things like this just cannot be ignored. 

You could send the wrong signals of discipline and misconduct

Sometimes, it might so happen that the employee himself is not at fault, it is just that circumstances have caused the problems he was causing and he himself wants to change them. In any case, your staff will be able to perform only when there is a supportive leader. Even when you feel like pulling all your hairs out, grinding your teeth and slamming your fists against the wall, it would be good for the health of the company and your overall health if you stop to think whether what you are doing is right.

According to Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux, two French organizational behaviourists, the term for this is the-set- up-to- fail syndrome. It means that employee performances are characterized by the way their supervisors are. When there is reciprocal influence and mutual trust, there is openness. Barsoux and Manzoni are of the opinion that when employees are treated as people in the “outer group”, the emphasis will be more on policies, rules and regulations. This is because they are treated as hired hands and hence managed in a less personal and more formal way. They emphasize that when employees sense disproval, they tend to shut down, and even become over defensive about their behaviour. It is true that effective discipline is good for the company, but this message should be sent out clearly. Challenges must be addressed before they get out of hand and your company should perform in such a way that both the employee and the employer stop supervising each other and start working on mutual trust and respect. 

Instead of reprimanding your employee, concentrate on what can be done

Anger and disappointment are negative emotions. Here are ways to deal with such negativity and bring in more productivity to the employee

Learning to manage yourself

This is probably tough because it is easier to find mistakes in others and manage them. So before confronting the employee on something you think he has done, it would be a good thing to confirm it with him before coming out in the open. Even worse would be to ask him about it when there are other team members with him. You would only make him antagonistic. It would be perfect if you handle the matter privately, which would also be good because you will not react in the heat of the moment.

Listen more, then you will be able to see his point of view as well

It is not easy to think from the other person’s angle, especially when a lot is at stake. As a good employer, it is your job to listen, before jumping into conclusions. When you understand why a particular employee did what he did, it would help you talk to him in a better way.

Focus on the outcome of the project

When you reprimand an employee, focus on the future of the project, rather than launching a personal attack. Even if you are disappointed that the employee turned negligent, he must be loyal to the project. If the employee feels that he is being punished, it would affect his creativity and drive.

Be specific when you are scolding

Rather than being general, you can go to the specifics while scolding. If you know that someone in your team has been late twice in the past week, you can tell him/her that specifically, like for example, you have been late “x” minutes on Monday or on Wednesday you have been late “y” minutes.

Advice in good intent

When you do not show your disappointment and anger, it would be easier to advice the staff in good intent. Whatever the error, it may have been a bad judgement call or a mistake on the employee’s part. If you give him a thorough thrashing now, it will foil the purpose, because what may seem common sense to you, will not be so for him.

Reprimand in such a way that he gets committed to you

At the end of the day, commitment is what you want from an employee. So you must make him understand that the change you are expecting from him is for the overall good and for elevating the quality of service.

No sandwich scolding, please

The old technique of smoothening the scolding in layers of compliments is not good. If you say 5 good things about him, and one reprimand, he might take the scolding lightly.


According to a study by, employees actually take constructive criticisms positively. So if you want to reprimand an employee for something he/she has done, make sure you do it tactfully, so it will not be an attack on their person, but on the way they approach the task.

Interesting links about the topic:
Right Way to Reprimand An Employee
Effective Ways To Reprimand Employees
How to Reprimand And Manage Employees

Pictures: Michel Banabila/ VFS Digital Design/ HighwaysAgency/ Steve Jurvetson

The author: Reema Oamkumar is engaged as a thought leader at which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

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