Communication Customer Service Disciplinary Action Employee Accountability Employee Training Leadership Problem Solving

Difficulty Disciplining Employees? Try This Option!

You can’t make people accountable – only they can do that.  But, you can sure create a paradigm shift that creates winning outcomes.


So many supervisors fail in the area of employee accountability.  Perhaps they never completed leadership development programs, perhaps they were the wrong selection for the role, possibly this, possibly that.

The bottom line is that many are somewhat intimidated about telling people negative information, so they don’t do anything.   Let’s face it, most managers don’t love this part of the job, the difference is some just can’t (or rather just don’t) have “the conversation”.

Of course, that is a problem in itself! How do we make our boss, shareholders or clients happy if we can’t get our employees on track?  We can’t! Ultimately everyone loses.

So, how can we ease this discomfort?  Change the paradigm! You are not hurting the employee when you have “the conversation” – you are saving them.  Let’s take a look.

As Stephen Covey wrote in his masterful book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind”.  Instead of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, why not try something different:  Of course you know to hire people that fit your culture.  You even know to provide expectations and training. Ready for the secret juice?  Care enough to help.  You might even be the one person that made a difference – a true impact –  in someone’s life.

Easily said, right?  BUT How?

Once you complete training (but before you send

them out to the wolves) consider a one-on-one conversation.  Not a memo, not a demand, a discussion.  About what?

Use your own words, however, at the end of the conversation, they should be clear, and confident that your plan and intention is to help them WIN.  Explain that your job is to provide the tools, guidance, and if necessary – pulling them back (counseling, coaching, retraining – what ever you call it) if you see them slipping.  Think back to others who were allowed to continue their poor performance and lost their jobs – did you truly take steps to help them win?.  Make a commitment to provide timely guidance to keep them on track.  Also, request from the employee these three things;

  • That they advise you of anything they need now to execute their job as trained.
  • That they advise If they later find obstacles that will prevent them from performing their job as trained.
  • And, most importantly ask for their personal and professional commitment to you and themselves, to do their absolute best as a treasured new member of your high performing team.

Under this strategy, every conversation after should support your position and the commitments you made to each other.  If they make a mistake, did they forget?  Were they confused?  Did they simply choose to do it their own way?  If you correct their behavior, remind them that you made the commitment to pull them back when you saw them slipping.  Do that with the intention to stop the behavior and help them win.

It’s not just the right thing to do, it is the kind thing to do! See the difference?  Before you might have seen yourself as being the mean villain – now I hope you see yourself as the mentor that made the difference.  If they continue the behavior, well, the conversation may need to be tweaked up a bit but for now, try this.  We all know that one strategy will never fit all, but I hope you agree this may make a difference.  It may help you get through that otherwise difficult conversation knowing you are really helping.

Keep this in mind.   It is your job to provide the tools, the guidance, and the direction.  It is their job to make it happen.  You can’t make people accountable – only they can do that.  But, you can sure create a paradigm shift that could lead to high achievers and winning outcomes.


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