Praise vs. Reprimand: Which is Correct?

By admin • 22 January 2016 • Uncategorized


There are so many theories about management styles in the business world it can be exhausting trying to figure out which one to use. One of the most common points of conflict in these theories is the debate over praising vs reprimanding.

Some theories say that by focusing solely on praising good behavior people will naturally start to mimic that conduct. The basic foundation of this theory is that people want to be acknowledged and praised. When they see what will lead to them being praised and recognized, they will change their behaviors. There are competing theories that say when you hire the right people you don’t need to manage them, but instead you get out of their way so they can naturally perform. In this management theory, you merely need to manage the “exceptions”, those who aren’t performing. There might still be a recognition program but the emphasis for managers is to find the right person. When they find the right person then they can get out of the way since they will naturally perform.

Managers only need to step in when there is an issue. For most companies, a commitment to either one of these extreme theories is likely to lead to conflicting messages and inconsistencies in results. We have diverse teams that have differing opinions, motivations and backgrounds. With such a complex workforce, what we need to focus on is whether management tools like praises and reprimands are effective. There will inevitably be times when people need to be held accountable for their actions. However, just reprimanding someone doesn’t mean you will get a change in behavior. If you want to make sure that the reprimand is aimed at your desired results, consider these tips:

  1. Don’t be emotional. Wait until you are calm. Confrontation is uncomfortable for everyone. Being overly emotional about it only escalates the defensive nature of those involved. Remember your intended culture. When a person leaves your office they will talk to their family and friends about the situation. Their perspective may be skewed, but if you are overly emotional or aggressive that will be the resounding message. Act as if your meeting is being recorded and your family will see it on the news that night. Maintain your composure. Wait until you are calm enough to have the meeting. If you can’t calm down within 48 hours then find someone else who can join or conduct the meeting.

  2. Think about your message in advance. Take time to consider what your message will be and how you will address the issue before having the meeting. Avoid accusations as if you are searching for an admission of guilt. This will only cause them to think they can argue their way out of the situation. Explain why the issue is an issue and how it impacts the company and team. Show them the policy that addresses the issue and allow them time to ask questions or voice their concerns.  Don’t be baited into an argument. Just stick to the facts and the policy.

  3. Give clear expectations of change. After identifying what needs to change, give suggestions on how to make that change and tell them about resources that are available to help. If applicable to the situation, establish short-term and long-term goals to guide them to the desired changes. Ask them what they think they can do different next time.

  4. Follow-up. People may be uncomfortable in future encounters. Go out of your way to touch base with the reprimanded employee. Greet them and ask them how they are doing. Encourage them in making changes and praise them for their progress. Remember that everyone else is watching too. People want to know they are in a safe place to work and that even when they make mistakes they can learn from them and still be accepted.
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