Positive Management with Positive Discipline – Easy Guide for Managing Tough Situations


Within most management and leadership roles comes a time when you must deal with an employee job performance issue. The first thing many of us think about is running the other way! This doesn’t have to be the case… starting today!

Recently I read a work by authors Eric Harvey and Paul Sims called Positive Discipline. The reading is quick however packed with useful tactics and strategies for handling a potentially tough situation.

As a manager it is essential to your organization, the employee, and yourself that issues be handled effectively and in a timely manner. Many of us dread the times when you must interact with an employee on a potentially time bomb situation. Letting issues slip by the waist side is not the answer. With positive discipline both you and your employee will walk away from your discussions with a clear path and reinforcement that motivates the employee to want to deliver the expectations set upon them.

In the next few paragraphs I will talk about some methods that are outlined in Positive Discipline and how you can put them into action.

I haven’t met any managers that have ever expressed any excitement with having to deal with performance issues in the workplace. You are not alone! The issues are generally not the problem; it’s how you react to them and the steps you take to resolve them that are. Problems left to disappear rarely do and time can be one of your worst enemies in situations like these. Taking the corrective action isn’t as difficult as you may think as long as you follow a management style that fosters growth, ownership, and responsibility in your employees while helping them create the correct path for themselves. That’s right! You don’t always need to tell your employee what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. When it comes time for that hang your head low discussion let your employee figure out what needs to be done with your support and guidance.

When we talk about the word “discipline” it is usually associated with a negative connotation. It doesn’t and shouldn’t be that way. I’m sure we can all relate discipline with something negative in our past lives. It’s time to change that.

What you should do?

Step 1. Identify the problem

Step 2. Analyze the severity

Step 3. Discuss the issue

Step 4. Document the discussion

Step 5 Follow up on the corrective actions

In step one we as managers need to identify the performance gap. Your employee should be doing X but he/she is doing Y. Identify ONLY the factual information and you should talk about what performance is desired as well as the actual outcome of the current situation. The key is to leave out anything that may seem judgmental or not have correct information backing it. Let’s look at a few examples.

Try to avoid statements like these:

Your ability to not hand in your report is causing a problem
You don’t respond quickly enough to our customers
You are late to work every day

Instead use statements like these:

Desired: The team is tasked with completed weekly reports on Friday prior to leaving for the weekend.

Actual: Last Friday you did not turn in your weekly report.

Using concise factual information takes the ambiguity out of what the issue really is. Keep things based on facts and both you and your employee can agree upon them in the end and work to create a resolution.

Analyzing the problem in step two is where you as a manager take a step back from the situation. Once you have identified the gap it’s time to do your research prior to meeting with your employee. This is where you analyze the severity of the circumstance.

Ask yourself these questions:

Why does this problem need to be resolved?

What will happen to the employee if this problem continues?

What should the discussion actually discuss?

With every performance problem some may be more serious than the next so it’s important to understand the why’s and why not. In any event the questions and answers you formulate for a formal discussion need to reflect positive reinforcement.

Within analyzing you must understand the impact and consequences of the employee’s actions. This includes how it impacts the business, the team, the employee, and most of all you!

Here are a few examples of potential impacts on someone not handing in a report on time.

Reporting is incomplete or inaccurate
Possible bad decisions on management’s part
Creates more work for others
Impact on customers
More work for you!!!

Consequences are what will impact the employee most of all. It could range from getting a poor review, to not getting a good raise, or more micro management.

You understand the issue and have done your analyzing it’s now time to have that dreaded meeting but wait you’re prepared now so there is nothing to fear! Your main objective here is to get the employee’s agreement to make that positive change. It is important that you get your employee to agree in order to get the buy-in and ownership you need to move forward. This also begins to formalize the process into something that can be referred to if the problem persists.

Your first words are important in the discussion. Don’t accuse someone of doing this or that it will get you no where fast. Stick to the facts! This isn’t a fight to see who is right or wrong it’s a discussion to help fix an issue and make both you and the employee understand what’s expected and willing to correct any issues.

Next, describe the desired and actual performance you identified above. Again, stick to the facts, you should have identified the problem earlier and what the actual performance should be so this should be easy. Don’t overdue it, and don’t fill the conversation up with verbose statements. Keep it simple.

Once the problem and the actual performance are on the table you want to listen to them. There may be many issues an employee might raise some of which may be potential roadblocks for them. You will most likely hear an explanation. Don’t play the blame game here either. Some circumstances may exist and that is why you listen although most times the employee does have control over situations.

Now its time to ask for agreement. You’ve explained the desired and actual performance, spoken with them, listened to their reasons, and had respect all the while. Take the conversation back to the identified gap and ask them if they understand now why correcting this is important.

If an employee is hesitant to give agreement at this point head back to where you analyzed and discuss the consequences list. Ask for agreement again.

If at this point you are still stuck in a dead zone with your employee then its time to mandate compliance.

Mandating should be conducted by:

1. Reviewing the performance expectation
2. Explaining why they must solve the issue
3. Describing any corrective action that may need to be taken
4. Notify them that if it isn’t complied with further action may be taken
5. Reconfirming that the employee understands
6. Closing with confidence that it can be completed

It’s time to discuss solutions. Although it’s your employee’s responsibility this is where you give the guidance they may need to comply with their agreement.

Excellent, these are the steps I suggest you take…

You want the employee to make their own suggestions here as well, when an employee has his/her own ideas they are more likely to follow through with them.

Some suggestions:

1. Document your discussion – not as a write-up but to keep the facts in order
2. Set up a follow up meeting – if the employee is doing well reward them and take notice, if not then apply this method again.
3. End positive – positive people earn positive results and not just on a short-term basis. If your employee knows that you will handle situations respectfully then they too will do the same and have more motivation to keep doing a great job!

For a more detailed read into Positive Discipline be sure to read Eric Harvey and Paul Sims guide to Positive Discipline.

You Can Purchase a Copy of Positive Discipline through my Amazon Store on the Right Sidebar!

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