How to Reprimand an Employee for Bad Behavior

by Angela Mitchell ; Updated September 26, 2017

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, and the task of telling an employee he's doing a less than stellar job can be a tough one. However difficult it may be, reprimands are sometimes essential for keeping the work in your company running smoothly. Take steps toward effectively and professionally reprimand an employee so you get the job done in a professional and courteous manner.


Gather all the facts, including the dates, times and details of the situation. Discreetly get documentation from all others involved, such as time cards or a written report of an unacceptable behavior.

Write a brief outline for use in your meeting, outlining the situation and its potential resolution, and outlining the statistics, facts or dates in question for easy reference in your meeting.

Hold all calls until after the meeting, so that you can give your employee your full attention.


Introduce the issue of concern in a professional way during the meeting. Emphasize your point of view by using "I" statements versus "you" statements, which can come across as more personal or belittling. For example, instead of saying, "Your work area is messy," it's better to say, "I'm concerned that your work area is hampering your ability to do your job effectively."

Be direct and concise with your concerns, keeping the reprimand itself short and professional. The meeting should be as brief as possible, so do not belabor a point or repeat points.

Encourage your employee to respond or explain, and pay attention to what he has to say. He may have logical or understandable reasons for his behavior.

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Without being downbeat, let the employee know know what steps would have to be taken next if the situation does not improve--whether those include a written warning, further administrative action or even job termination. Emphasize that you are having this meeting, however, so that those further consequences can be avoided.

Clearly identify your goals for the employee, and the specific outcome you want to see following the meeting.

Close the meeting courteously and positively. Thank the employee for taking the time to discuss the situation, and express a clear belief in her ability to improve or correct the situation.

Evaluate your meeting while it's still fresh in your mind. How did it go? What was your impression of the employee's response and attitude?

Document your discussion with the employee in writing with a brief follow-up. This might take the form of an e-mail or formal letter or memo. Thank him for taking the time to meet and discuss the situation, and emphasize that you look forward to an optimistic outcome.

About the Author

Angela Mitchell is a freelance writer, editor and playwright with more than 200 published features to her credit since 1993. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Writer's Digest," to "Computer Currents," "Markee," "ParentGuide," "Antique Trader Weekly," and more.

Photo Credits

  • A businessman an businesswoman having a meeting image by sumos from Fotolia.com
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