How to Reprimand Employees Constructively

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Many bosses dislike reprimanding employees because it seems like a no-win proposition that leads to employee resentment, potential insubordination and diminished morale. Nevertheless, there are times when it's unavoidable. Enlightened bosses know how to turn such circumstances into an opportunity for education and growth.

Call the employee discreetly into your office or pull him aside. It's best to reprimand an employee in private, not in front of his co-workers. Try not to make a big scene when asking him to come talk to you; perhaps sending an email is an effective strategy.

Use positive words and don't place blame. Instead of saying, "You didn't get those reports in on time and because of you, I'm getting in trouble with my manager," say something like, "I'd appreciate if you could get your reports in on time in the future. Whenever someone is running late, it gets the whole team behind and then the big bosses get upset."

Suggest ways the employee could avoid such problems in the future. Always tell him what he can improve upon without putting down his work. For example, try telling him, "I really liked how you motivated the other employees you worked with on that project, just remember to be a team player as well." This is critical in reprimanding constructively, and goes along with Step 2.

Give him a chance to tell his side of the story. You have to use your judgment here; if the employee has a track record of making excuses, don't rely too much on what he says and keep a better eye on him to keep him on task. If one of your best employees screws up and has a good reason for it, cut him some slack.

End on a positive note. Thank him for speaking with you and mention something good that he's done recently. This does wonders for boosting morale and decreases the chance that you'll have to reprimand him again.


  • Calm yourself down before reprimanding an employee. If you just found out about something the employee fouled up, give yourself some time to cool off before discussing it with him. Keeping a friendly rapport with your employees is a good idea. Be friendly but don't give the impression that they can get away with whatever they want. There is a fine line between being too lenient and being the perfect boss.


  • Avoid talking down to the employee. This will only embarrass her and hurt her feelings. It will only lead to decreased productivity or a physical outburst. Watch your tone as it can deliver just as much, if not more, impact than your actual words.


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