How to Discipline Your Employees Without Losing Them

Holding your employees accountable for their work is vital when you are growing a business; but that shouldn’t come at the drastic risk of losing your talent.

Often senior-level managers can become out of touch. We may think we know what is happening on the floor, but in reality, we have no idea. The mistaken assumption is that expectations are reasonable and achievable when they may be far from it. Being clear about your expectations leaves no room for assumptions and takes the excuses out of the equation when holding employees accountable.YELLING

Instead of finger-pointing and playing the blame game when employees are under-performing try these suggestions:

Be clear about your expectations. When assigning tasks to employees for special projects or implementing process changes, it is important that you clearly discuss expectations. See my blog on implementing change in the workplace. The discussion is not only opportunity to give direction, but also to hear from your employees. Leave room open for them to digest your expectations and provide you with feedback or concerns regarding those expectations.

Be Empathetic. Whether we plan for it or not, life happens. We cannot predict the days events, but we can be empathetic and understanding of life’s happenings. Before pointing out failures, give your employees a chance to express why they fell short of meeting expectations. Hear it from their point of view first and then remind them of previously agreed to expectations. Ask them probing questions about how they think they can improve on delivering in the future.

Give them options. Explain the different options available; whether it be moving them to another department, re-arranging the work schedule to accommodate any lifestyle changes or possibly discussing  an exit strategy. The last thing you want is someone working for you that doesn’t want to be there. It’s better to find out while they are still there; this way you’ll have the chance to cross-train someone to replace them.

Follow through. When it comes time to implement disciplinary action, do it. Don’t get too caught up on small details that you “let it slide”. Holding employees accountable requires you to actually follow-through with doing what you say you will do. Why is this important? Because it sets the standard. Now that you’ve heard from their point of view, provided options and explained disciplinary measures it’s time to implement. Implementation shows you are serious about the future of the organization and you expect them to be serious about it too.

Profile-Pic_thumb1_thumb.jpgMary V. Davids is the Founder and Managing Member of D&M Consulting Services, LLC. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing employee motivation and workplace performance, leadership coaching and training & development. She also serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of African American’s in Human Resources. Book Mary to speak at your next event or hire Mary for leadership & professional development consultation today. Follow Mary on twitter@MVDavids.


About Mary Davids

Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC., and creator of the Honest Model™. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing workplace performance, career coaching, leadership coaching and training & development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. To connect with Mary, you can follow her on twitter @MVDavids or you can email her at
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3 Responses to How to Discipline Your Employees Without Losing Them

  1. I agree with you – there is a need for accountability but the reasons why there is a gap from desired to actual states may not be what you expected. Finding out from the employee is a great start, and realizing that life does happen, is good advice. We must be able to adapt, though, the actions based on the events may be a great. I mean, let us say that they had a loss in the family, and they stayed up the day before trying to assemble as much as possible… Bottom line is that in the bigger picture – will this one event matter? Usually it is a series of events that lands someone into a real disciplinary action. In a few work places that I have been – I have had to walk people out the door for absences due to a family emergency. However, they were not walked out for that day. I was truly sorry about that event. It was the fact that they burned all their “points” or days prior to that day – and it could not be covered.

    • Great feedback! I agree! It’s wise to deal with issues when they start in the way I mention; this way if an employee is not able to meet expectations they are held accountable to communicate such before the fail. Communication is a key element to implementing disciplinary action. If clearly communicated, disciplinary enforcement is likely not to face as much resistance vs. a circumstance without effective communication.

      Thanks for your feedback!

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