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The Formal Reprimand
Handing out wr itten reprimands for someone who is missing deadlines is something no supervisor ever wants to do. Unfortunately, there will come a time where someone continuously slips up and prevents a project from running as efficiently as it could and will need some coaching or a severe warning in order to get them back on the right track.
Reprimands are a severe thing and need to be treated as such, while also being handled carefully. Even though they are formal in nature, they should spell out a clear message that the employee's behavior is affecting their work or the work place at large. Creating an effective written reprimand will become a great tool that will be sure to reduce damages caused by your employees.
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Determine the Trigger
Before you begin your reprimand you need to clearly define what actions or behaviors took place, when they happened, and how many times they have happened in the past. If you have a human resource or personnel office, it's a good idea to meet with them to determine if their actions warrant a reprimand.
Another thing that needs to be determined is what the employee is doing to consistently missing their deadlines. Are they late to work on a consistent basis? Are they fraternizing with employees rather than meeting their obligations? This information is going to be especially important when determining an appropriate punishment.
When writing the reprimand, clearly provide a succinct list of their offenses and a small summary explaining when these offenses took place. State why these actions or behaviors are causing problems and how it's affecting the progress of the project. If relevant, reference any contracts or policies the employee is breaching as a result of their actions.
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Determining the appropriate response to an offense will require some creative thinking. You need to create something that will get the employee into the habit of doing things correctly or by taking away privileges until their behavior improves.
As mentioned before, each infraction is unique and coming up with a fitting punishment is key to effectively using a reprimand to improve your employee's deadlines. For example, an employee who is consistently late may be required to show up several minutes earlier for a period of time that equals or slightly exceeds the amount of late days. If they are often distracted by co-workers or their environment you might shorten their breaks or adjust their schedule so that they take their breaks alone for a number of days or until they become caught up with work.
Punishment has to be clearly defined so that there is no question what steps need to be taken in order to make amends for their offenses and should be enforced to show the severity of their actions. Though that doesn't mean punishments should be draconian or unprofessional since it will only do more harm than good in the long term.
If you're in doubt that your punishment is appropriate, collaborate with your HR or Personnel Office if available in order to determine the best course of action.
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Components of a Reprimand
There are several things an effective reprimand needs to include in order to be a fully effective tool. Obviously, the above sections outline the very basic form of a reprimand: the offense and punishment, but there is a lot more to a reprimand than a deliverance of punishment.
While severe, reprimands aren't meant to scare employees away. They work most effectively as tools to help get employees to change habits and prevent further offenses in the future. As such, the tone of a reprimand should definitely be strict, but it also needs to offer ways the employee can change and improve their behavior to prevent further incidents.
Your reprimand needs to outline the consequence for failing to carry out the disciplinary action and for repeating incidents like the one they are being reprimanded for. Again, you don't want to threaten or scare the employee away, just make sure that it's clear that if their behavior continues it will damage their professional image and privileges in the future.
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Never get personal with your reprimands. Though it's difficult to keep emotions out of difficult situations like this, you will have to maintain your professionalism both in the punishments and tone within your reprimand. Failure to do so may cause legal trouble in the future.
Leave friends and enemies at the door before you begin writing your reprimand. Whether it's your favorite employee or least liked employee you need to keep those personal feelings toward the person in check. A reprimand demands that everyone be treated equally when they act in away that is detrimental to the work environment and providing varying levels of punishment for similar behavior will only cheapen the reprimand's meaning.
Always get the reprimand signed by the employee's manager or supervisor and the employee as well. This will show that the employee has read the reprimand and understands its contents (not that they agree with it). Offer them the chance to give a rebuttal to the reprimand by attaching a document that they can send back to see if they agree, disagree, or want to challenge the reprimand issued.