18 Essential Disciplinary Techniques for Supervisors

Supervisory training is critical to the success of any discipline program. Supervisors should consider the following techniques and considerations to effectively discipline employees:

  1. Cool down. Effective discipline will not result if tempers and emotions take charge. Remain calm no matter how ridiculous the excuse or accusation. Let the employee unwind, and then get the conversation back on track.
  2. Get the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions. Operate on solid facts: Who, what, when, where and why.
  3. Be decisive. Do not postpone disciplining employees. The longer you wait, the more likely you won’t discipline or won’t get accurate facts.
  4. Have your supervisor do it. If you are too close to a situation and cannot be objective, ask your supervisor to get involved.
  5. Be flexible. Take an individual’s personality into account. Shy, introverted employees should be approached differently than bold extroverts.
  6. Do it privately. Always, if possible, discipline in private. Treat employees respectfully, and in the way you would want to be treated.
  7. Attack the offense, not the offender. Don’t make it personal. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Say “I want you to meet the production goals we set during your last appraisal,” instead of “You didn’t meet the production goals.” “I” statements do not cast blame or judgment, and “you” statements put employees on the defensive.
  8. Don’t overemphasize a single mistake. Discuss total performance. Offering compliments as well as important criticisms will provide a better balance and a more receptive employee.
  9. Don’t get emotionally involved. Employee’s personal problems should not become management’s problems. Sensitivity and compassion have their place in all relationships, but don’t let them become the reason for ignoring behavioral problems.
  10. Avoid pulling rank. Persuasion and explanation produce results rather than bullying and pulling rank. Ordering based on rank produces resentment and hostility.
  11. Explain why and seek agreement. Explain the reason. When employees understand and accept the “why,” observance becomes natural.
  12. Discipline present, not past, offenses. Don’t bring up past offenses that were previously disciplined unless they are part of a progressive penalty.
  13. Apply a progressive penalty. This will encourage changed and improved behavior.
  14. Penalty should fit the offense. Less serious offenses should accord less serious punishment.
  15. Show confidence in future behavior. Express belief in the employee’s ability to meet company standards. It will go a long way to mending the relationship.
  16. Don’t hold grudges. Drop the matter and believe that the situation has been resolved.
  17. Admit it when wrong. Supervisors can make mistakes. Admit it if you do and apologize.
  18. Be consistent. A consistent approach to discipline will help minimize the threat of discrimination claims. Employees won’t be able to claim that they were “singled out” while other employees received no discipline or lesser discipline for the same offense.