Reprimanding employees in front of other employees is never a good idea. Embarrassing staff members in that way damages morale and can put people on the defensive, making it less likely that they will fix their bad behaviors.
Scolding employees in front of customers is worse.
Even if employee has done something that deserves a good talking to, and even if you think the customer is expecting you to come down hard on the employee, don’t.
First, the situation could escalate with the employee going on the defensive. A full-on argument could break out, and you could end up making your entire business look bad. However, even if the employee keeps his or her cool, you will likely humiliate the employee. That’s a sure-fire way to destroy that person’s morale and cause more performance or behavior issues. Those issues could spread to other employees who are offended by your tactics. Finally, you could make customers feel incredibly awkward, embarrassed for the employee or even outraged by your behavior.
You shouldn’t insult, lecture or patronize employees, but sometimes a reprimand is necessary, especially in these three situations:
- When it’s a safety issue. If the employee is endangering himself or herself, other employees or customers, don’t wait to correct the behavior.
- When it’s a legal issue. If the employee is doing something that could land your organization into legal trouble, step in immediately to fix the problem. Any further reprimands or lectures could be reserved for later, when no employees are present.
- When the employee’s behavior is egregious. Hopefully this never happens to you, but if an employee flies off the handle and starts yelling, throwing things or generally making a scene, you must react immediately. Calmly tell the employee to stop, collect his or her belongings and leave. You can’t have a person like that representing your organization.
In all three cases, be firm, but respectful. In all other cases, you can correct the behavior away from an audience. Simply say “May I talk to you for a second?” and move out of earshot of customers.
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