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Discipline and Documentation, Part IV

In this last article in the series, we’ll address the issue of positive
confrontations and deal with some problems one can face in
administering discipline.

Few owners or managers relish the idea of confronting a problem
employee. Yet this can be critical to dealing with a person
whose performance and behavior is obstructing the success of
a department, a project or even the entire company. So when
is confronting an employee valuable and appropriate? When it
is constructive and when you want to accomplish any of the following:

Correct a misunderstanding.

Encourage actions leading to improved performance.

Uncover hidden strengths.

Correct a weakness.

Correct behavior if the employee has committed an infraction
or engaged in misconduct.

The following principles of constructive confrontation will be

Wait for the right time, as timing in life is everything; especially
wait until the employee has peaked emotionally.

Don’t treat the employee as an adversary. He’ll only feel hostile
and react that way.

Aim at a win-win attitude and solution.

Listen carefully until you understand the employee’s point
of view, and maybe especially moreso if you are not inclined to

Describe issues, facts, causes, outcomes, solutions and recommendations,
not opinions, rumors, gossip or hearsay.

Be accurate, complete and professional.

Establish ground rules for the meeting and the issues, and
control both.

Reach an understanding and agreement.

There can be problems in administering discipline, however.
These are pitfalls in professionally handling what is often a delicate
and difficult situation, and they must be avoided.

Failing to get all the specific and relevant facts.

Flying off the handle, losing one’s temper and acting when
not in control of one’s emotions.

Failing to advise employee of the precise offense and specific

Failing to get the employee’s point of view; believing that
your perception of the events is the only correct one and denying
the possibility of another point of view.

Letting the employee talk you out of disciplinary action. If
he does, what will you do the next time he commits the same
infraction? And perhaps more importantly, what will you do
when someone else commits the same infraction?

Failing to specifically discuss the situation as to what happened,
why discipline is called for, why a penalty is being given
and what will be the consequences of future infractions.

Harboring a grudge by holding the infraction against the
employee in making future judgments.

Personalizing the employee’s action as being aimed against

About the Author

L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute,
Yakima, Wash.

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