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Keeping Calm When Disciplining an Employee

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Assertive Discipline Aggressive

All people who work in a managerial or supervisory capacity will be required at some point, to discipline an employee. It can often be quite straightforward but at other times it can be quite tricky depending on the circumstances and on the personality and attitude of the person whom you’re disciplining. It’s absolutely crucial that you remain calm when taking disciplinary action against an employee if you’re aiming to achieve the desired effects and here are some useful tips to enable you to do that.

Be Assertive Not Aggressive

There is a marked difference between ‘assertive’ and ‘aggressive’ behaviour. We’re all aware that aggressive behaviour will display a tendency to lose one’s cool and with that, there is often an element of losing control over a situation. However, by adopting an assertive approach to discipline it means that you are clear about how you feel, what you need and how that can be achieved without their being any cause for argument or misunderstanding and yet still maintaining a respectful attitude towards the person you are disciplining.

Know the Facts

It will help you stay calm if you have all the facts at your disposal before a disciplinary procedure and that you can back them up with evidence wherever possible. Dates, times, what was said by whom etc are all key components which those on the receiving end of a disciplinary hearing will sometimes try to dispute or ‘wriggle out’ of, so the more material evidence you can present, the easier it will be to stay calm and to avoid unnecessary confrontation.


Sometimes in order to get somebody to admit they have behaved wrongly, a useful ploy is to create a scenario whereby you ask them to put themselves in somebody else’s ‘shoes’. In doing this, they’ll often be able to see more clearly how they were wrong in the first place which can also help diffuse the situation. For example, say they have sworn at a customer over the phone or hung up on them, by asking them how they would feel if they’d been making a complaint and had been waiting for half an hour to get through only to be treated badly by the customer service agent who hung up or swore at them, they are more likely to see the error of their ways and to accept the disciplinary action accordingly.


Even if you have cast iron evidence that an employee has been in the wrong, allow them to speak without interruption and to put their side of the story across. Don’t jump in midway through but let them have their full say. There may well be quite legitimate mitigating circumstances why they took the action they did which, whilst still not making it acceptable, may go some way to your own understanding as to why something happened. If you keep butting in, however, you’re more likely to become more agitated as will the other person which could likely result in you losing your cool.

Use the Velvet Glove Approach Where Possible

In certain circumstances, you might be left with very little option but to fire the employee for conduct forbidden under your company’s rules and regulations but in those circumstances where some kind of reprimand is sufficient, you should adopt the ‘velvet glove’ approach as to the ‘iron fist’ if you want to remain calm. Basically, this means calmly explaining what the person has done wrong, what they need to do rectify the situation to ensure it doesn’t happen again and what you now expect of them in the future so that you’ve given them clear guidance and they will know the boundaries of what’s not acceptable conduct. Obviously, in adopting this more controlled approach, it doesn’t mean that their misdemeanour has been considered any less serious, it simply means that you’re adopting an assertive approach under which you’re not getting out of control but where, nevertheless, they are fully made aware of your displeasure at their behaviour or misdemeanour and that they are left in no doubt of the consequences they’ll face, should similar behaviour be repeated.

By keeping calm, they are far more likely to respect your decision and also to have taken everything on board which would not likely be the case if the hearing turned into a slanging match. In keeping your calm, you still have full control of the situation which is what is required from a disciplinary hearing.

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Good teaching materials you have here. Thanks a lot.
ALBI - 14-Nov-11 @ 3:23 PM
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