How to give reprimand

As a business owner or team leader, you want to promote positive behaviors that can contribute to the bottom line and team being, as well as eliminate negative behaviors that can lead to the destructive fault finding and blaming spiral. With a sense of discipline and consistence in your leadership style, you will be able to apply the technique of giving reprimand feedback that fosters a healthy work environment.


When reprimanding, what you do is often not as important as what you don’t do. Since no one really enjoys a reprimand, it’s easy for people to be put on the defensive when receiving criticism. Remembering these following “don’ts” will prevent a person from becoming more concerned with listening to you and less concerned with fighting you off.


  1. Don’t attack someone personallyNever begin a reprimand with a statement such as, “You’re a disaster …” Address the problem at hand. Be specific about what was done incorrectly. It is never okay to insult a person just because you are upset.
  2. Don’t waive reprimands. In other words, don’t wait “for a good time” to deliver a series of reprimands which neither you nor the person can recall correctly. The best time to give a reprimand is immediately after the incorrect behavior or action has occurred. 
  3. Don’t reprimand people in public. It’s thoughtless, damaging, and embarrassing for everyone.  If you have occasion to reprimand a person, do it privately.


Before you give a reprimand—think! If someone has done something wrong you must ask yourself, “Should he or she have known better?” If the answer is “No” then the person is obviously still unfamiliar with his or her assigned responsibilities or task. In this case, Do Not Reprimand.  Never reprimand a beginner—be it an experienced employee working in a new position or your own child learning to tie his shoelaces. It will only cause confusion or outright discouragement.  In this instance, your role as a manager is to help, or redirect, the person who is having a problem.


However, if a person should have known better, then you must ask yourself, “Did they make the mistake deliberately, or might it have been because they lacked confidence?”  If the problem revolves around confidence, Do Not Reprimand. You need to determine the reason for the problem causing this lack of confidence. It could be that there is a new situation unsettling to an experienced worker. For example, perhaps a long-time sales clerk makes many errors on the new cash register. If so, the reason is probably a lack of confidence with the buttons or the new routine required when ringing up sales. In such a situation, a supportive managerial style is required. No one needs to reprimand this clerk. Rather, the clerk needs some training and some practice on the new register, coupled with support from an understanding boss. Reprimands have no place in this example.


Remember to only reprimand deliberate, regressive performance or behavior.


The following reprimand structure was successful practiced and shared among HR community in Vietnam by Mr Chris Harvey, the former CEO of 




Nam, you have always been a devoted sales manager in our organization. Your hardworking and attentive to details attitude have set a high standard in our team performance. I truly appreciate your contribution to our company.




However it was to my disappointment that you failed to deliver a clear request to your team and monitor our new project according to your standard. As a result, we had 2 delayed shipments and a not so constructive fight between you and your staff.


Call to action:    


Do you agree that these are facts and behaviors that are creating some negative feelings at work? What can we do to improve this situation and make sure it will not repeat in the future?


Start using this skill to build a healthy team for your organization. We love to hear how it works for you.

Date: 24 Oct 2013
Author: Tien Luong

Once a creative advertising copywriter and winning writer of a public contest on the Youth Newspaper, now an aspirational blogger on various topics with a deep passion for life and human potentials. 

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