What Is Reprimanding & Does It Actually Work?

Employee shortcoming is something you’ll have to deal with as a business owner. Mistakes are part of human nature.

But that doesn’t mean you let things slide. You’ll have to step in, try to make sure everything runs as it should – as per the rules set down. And reprimanding is one way of doing this.

Know what it means? Is it effective? Get the answers to these questions, and more details about reprimanding, right below.

What Is Reprimanding and Does It Actually Work
Cafe interior @vilalusa.gaia

Reprimanding – The Definition

Reprimanding is a formal way of showing dissatisfaction with an employee’s actions. That’s mostly after all other methods of bringing the said employee to speed with what’s required have failed – like a few pointers and recommendations.

A reprimand can either be written or verbal.

The verbal reprimand is more of a soft warning – you give this when your employee has just slipped up for the first time.

But sometimes the unexpected happens. For one reason or the other, some employees may fail to heed the verbal reprimand and keep on with their “mess.” In such a case, a written reprimand is only necessary.

Why Reprimand?

From above, reprimanding is a warning. But that’s not the whole purpose of it.

Remember, mistakes aren’t always intentional – especially when it’s a fairly new employee involved. Such a person is sure bound to miss a step or two, and can as well be unaware. So a reprimand, along with the relevant guidance, is a way of saying, “this is not how you do it.”

In this case, you’re leading the said employee through the required steps and the ensuing action if the same mistake is repeated.

But for more experienced employees, the reprimand is a clear warning for them to rectify their mistakes.

So, summing up, reprimanding (the right way) is an appreciation of the human nature of your employees to slip. On the other hand, you’re telling them to be more careful next time. That’s for a verbal reprimand.

For a written one, it implies the allowance for mistakes/misconduct is over. It points to an offing stern action unless the employees switch up their game.

That said, you should make sure you’re doing it in a way that boosts productivity – because that’s the whole point here. That means there are things you want to avoid.

Sometimes you feel the need to reprimand because maybe your employees are lacking at certain skills on the job. Check out ‘Tips To Setting Up Proper On-The-Job Training” for a guide for proper training techniques to get your staff up to speed for all the required tasks.

What Is Reprimanding and Does It Actually Work
A person having some food in a cafe @gynura_cafe

The Don’ts of Reprimanding

It’s a sure thing: reprimanding is never a nice thing. And it will be even worse depending on how you handle it.

As indicated above, you’re looking to get the employee back on track, not raise a feud. And we all know what that can lead to:

  • Confrontations
  • Dismissal (sometimes wrongfully)
  • Employees quitting and
  • Lawsuits.

You don’t want any of these just because your idea of reprimanding is unorthodox for a more significant part.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind to steer clear of any of the above:

1. No threats

Probably the worst stance you can take on. All you’ll achieve with this is a scared workforce who hates you to the core. And how’s that for productivity?

The way to do it is by adhering to the problem and the solution. So you point out to the employee his/her mistake and explain why it shouldn’t be that way – assuming they don’t already know.

They should do better next time.

2. Doing it in public doesn’t cut it

Your employee is going to mess when everyone’s watching – you, other workers, and customers. And you may feel a strong urge to scorn them right there and then.


First of all, no one likes being shouted at. Secondly, tearing down someone in that manner doesn’t assert your authority. It only exposes how much of a bully you are. And a public reprimand doesn’t just sit well with most people.

Make a point of summoning the said employee in your office and having a sit down concerning his/her conduct. That way, you won’t have to step on anyone’s toes by causing a scene (which can be embarrassing).

Teenage employees can be tricky to deal with because of their age, be sure to check out “Learn How to Effectively Manage & Coach Teenage Employees” for a guide to having teenagers working for you.

3. It’s nothing personal

Avoid by all means resorting to personal attacks. Once you go this route, the whole point of reprimanding is lost. The employees won’t be inclined to look at the mistakes at hand but would rather defend their character.

So don’t let your anger ruin things further.

The mess happened in a professional capacity; deal with it the same way – professionally. Address the issue as per the laid down rules.

4. Give it time but not too much

As you’ve seen above, an on-the-spot public reprimand is not ideal. You’ll probably be too angry to address the matter objectively.

But then that doesn’t mean you postpone tackling the problem for an extended period. It will only make it worse as the said employee is likely to keep at fault – either for being unaware of what is required or taking your lack of action as approval.

And you never know. Other employees may pick up this negativity seeing as you seem unbothered –probably the worst that can happen.

Therefore, be sure to do the necessary as soon as possible and when you feel you are calm enough to be objective.

Do you have your staff’s vacation policies set up? If not, then check out “How to Structure Employee Vacation Policy” for our guide to setting up their vacations.

What Is Reprimanding and Does It Actually Work
Cafe outdoor setting @kirpetillant

5. No sacred cows

Each employee must be held at the same standards in case of any mistakes on their part. No exceptions or extremes.

Any sign deviation from this, and you’ll end up with a divided workforce. And moving forward in this state is close to impossible.

Another implication of favoritism is the possibility of a lawsuit. The aggrieved employee can easily bring up that your reprimand was because he/she belongs to a particular group. You’ll be hard-pressed to wriggle out of this, especially when it’s pointed out that you overlooked or were more lenient to the same conduct by a different employee.

Suffice to say, base your decisions on the rule book. It’s easier and better for you.

6. Reprimanding the right way

The following pointers will help you in restoring conduct or addressing mistakes without necessarily leading to frosty relations at the workplace.

Be sure to check out “Tools For Tracking Employee Performance at Your Cafe” for a look at our tools we use to track the performance of employees in a business setting.

7. Address the issue specifically

Being focused on correcting the mistakes is what will restore an employee’s productivity.

As already pointed out, personal attacks should be avoided at all costs. The employee is bound to forget all about the reprimand and instead focus on the slander.

On the other hand, mixing up your reprimanding with a host of compliments might not be the best idea. You have other opportunities for that. Let this be all about righting a wrong.

The focus helps in drawing the employee’s attention on the matter at hand.

8. Make things official

Always keep records of every warning shot you fire at your employees. You’ll have a reference sometimes later when you need to bring up the incident in case the employee keeps up with the same mistake.

But most importantly, the records will be handy in the unfortunate case of you having to fire the said employee. That’s with persistent misconduct.

The termination may lead to a lawsuit. What you want is a stable ground to defend yourself, and the documentation will provide the best proofing. Obviously, both you and the employee should sign this document.

Learn to schedule your employees and have a smart schedule set up in “How to Schedule Employees at a Restaurant or Cafe“.

What Is Reprimanding and Does It Actually Work
Drinks and snacks @korba28

9. Consider laying down the expectations

This may apply where the employee is new. It’s only natural that he/she hasn’t gotten the hang of it yet.

So it helps to take time and go over what’s required of them. Their mistakes were likely as a result of being unaware of procedures. A verbal reprimand here will be ideal.

10. Listen

Reprimanding is not a supremacy battle where the employees are supposed to keep it zipped as you take it all out on them. It’s a problem-solving avenue.

And that calls for lots of listening – on your side and the employees. By listening, you get more insight into the possible origin of the mistakes or misconduct.

From there, it’s easier to see the best direction to take.

11. Set the correct mood

The tone you assume will determine if the reprimanding session will be successful – right from the point you set an appointment.

For example, instead of ordering, ask. Of course, it will be more of an indirect order, but it signals that you’re looking to have a discussion rather than a session of accusations and counter-accusations.

On the other hand, you should try to be firm. Let your tone and actions convey that though you’re not going to be abnormally hard on them, you need only the right thing done.

12. Let them be part of the solution

Sometimes the fix is not as easy as telling the employee to do what is needed. You’ll know this by listening (remember above?).

The employees are in a better position to tell precisely the trouble they’re facing. So letting them take the lead or at least be part of the solution can be exponentially rewarding.

What Is Reprimanding and Does It Actually Work
drink on the table @yokohamabarrierfree

So the answer from the beginning of the article, the short answer: yes! Will you rather let things bad habits and errors to run amok? Of course not. You’ll have to crack your whip, in a good way, as needed to restore order.

The caveat lies in your modus operandi. You’ll have to avoid the pitfalls that doom reprimanding from the word go. At the same time, you have to make sure you embrace practices that bring out the best side of the process.

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