How to lay down the law to a staff member

Most employees act with their organisation’s best interests at heart. Inevitably, however, managers sometimes have to take disciplinary action against an errant employee. It is then important that the disciplinary action achieve a positive response from the employee. Any retaliatory, get-even, disgruntled reaction is a clear indication that the manager did not handle the matter well. The following guidelines will better prepare you for reprimanding employees in future...

1. Make sure the rules are known and understood.

Not only must you be thoroughly familiar with the organisation’s rules and policies, but you must also ensure that your employees know and understand them as well. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming they know the rules because they once received a printed copy of them. You must make sure that employees are reminded of them from time to time.

2. Get the facts before you act.

Before you take any disciplinary action, make sure you know what happened and when, and why it happened and how. Never make a hasty decision. Be aware of the employee’s past record and know how similar situations were handled in the past. Don’t accept hearsay evidence or go on general impressions.

3. Know your authority and operate within it.

What actions an you take without checking with anyone higher up? What can you only recommend to higher authority? Can you send an employee home, with or without pay, while an investigation is carried out? Are there others who should be advised of any actions - your boss, an equal opportunity officer, or personnel officer. You should know these things before you take any action. And finally, remember the advice of General Norman Schwarzkopf - 'Rule 13: When in command, take charge.'

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