Managing Employees: How to Reprimand

When you need to correct an employee, do you use the technique of “sandwiching” your reprimand between a compliment or pat on the back? Though it may make it easier for you to deliver your bad news, it doesn’t work that well in changing employees’ behavior. Find out why and what you should do instead.

Do you remember being told to use the “sandwich” technique when you needed to reprimand someone? Let me give you an example:

“Fred, I’m really pleased with how you’ve been progressing since you joined us and you’re doing a great job. However you’re not getting your reports in on time and we’re missing deadlines. I’d like you to tighten up a bit on this. Anyway, thanks for all you’ve done so far and keep up the good work.”

Have you ever said something along these lines when managing your team? You probably needed Fred to sort out his reporting but you didn’t want to upset or demoralize him.

The only problem is that Fred may not get the message. The importance of it may be seriously diluted.

He may hear it as, “Fred, you’re doing a brilliant job, you just need to sort out the reporting bit but it’s not really that important.”

What happens then is, Fred continues to fail with his reports.

The “sandwich” technique doesn’t work, it lets you off the hook and it’s mealy mouthed. Be direct when managing your people and they’ll respect you more for it. You are also much more likely to get a change in behavior.

If you are unhappy with some aspect of an employee’s performance then you need to tell them so. The skill is in doing it in a way that’s effective and doesn’t lower the morale of the individual.

Firstly, it’s not acceptable to speak to your people just when you’re unhappy about something. Tell them the good news as well. As Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson say in their book The One Minute Manager – “Catch people doing something right” and tell them about it.

Some managers and employers still have this daft notion that if people are doing things right then that’s what they’re paid for and they don’t need complimented. Ask almost any employee in Industries throughout the world and they’ll tell you that they don’t feel appreciated by their manager.

When you notice someone doing something you do like, tell them about it. When you notice them doing something you don’t like, tell them about it. Whether it’s good news or bad, the same rules apply.

Do it as soon as possible. Acknowledgement of a job well
done is not much good six months later. Also, if you don’t immediately call someone’s attention to something you are not happy about, then they’ll assume it’s okay. Either that or they’ll think you didn’t notice or you don’t care.

Do it in private. Why is it that some managers still feel it’s okay to reprimand someone in front of their colleagues? Even the mildest rebuke can have a negative effect on morale.

When you speak to the person use “I” messages. Say things like “I liked the way you did that” or “I think there is another way to do that.” Avoid “You” messages such as “You’re doing great.” That can come across as patronizing or insincere. “You’re doing that all wrong” may cause conflict, lower morale and may not sort the problem.

When your giving feedback, focus on one or two things. You’ll only confuse the person if you run off a whole list of attributes or misdemeanors.

Be specific about job behavior, focus on what the person did or didn’t do, don’t make a personal attack.

Allow time for the message to sink in and allow the person to respond. You can then seek agreement as to what will happen in the future. If the person does not agree to take corrective action then you need to move to another level. When they do agree to take corrective action then make sure that you monitor it and give encouraging feedback.

Being direct with your people is better for you, better for them and better for you business, so save your “sandwiches” for lunchtime.

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