No manager or supervisor wants to have to discipline an employee for poor performance.

It can be difficult to convey disappointment with an employee's performance. You still want to be compassionate and encourage the employee to do their best.

However, certain strategies allow the employee to learn from their poor performance. Here's how to help them become the best employee that they can be.


Often, discipline takes on a negative connotation, but it doesn't have to. In a positive light discipline can inspire employees to grow.

The goal of motivating an employee through discipline is to improve their performance. It's not getting them started on a path that leads to eventual termination.

Example: An employee has a difficult time arriving on time. The usual reaction is that they get a verbal warning, or written warning, which can be perceived negatively.

However, using motivational discipline to help the employee arrive on time would be a collaborative discussion about how to better manage time.

This allows the employee to take note of their punctuality. It also helps them gain skills, awareness, and knowledge of their employer's standards and expectations. 

When they arrive on time the following day, be sure to give them a thumbs up and let them know that you notice and appreciate their effort. Positive praise works wonders compared to negative discipline. 

Be Specific

When it comes to meeting with an employee regarding discipline, it's important to be specific.

Employers fall into the trap of using vague phrases such as "bad attitude" or "insubordination." The employee may not be aware of the specific behaviors that led to the meeting.

Without specifics, employees may become upset and the meeting may go poorly. Be candid; explain the behaviors or actions that led to the meeting.

For example, if the employee made a snide comment during a meeting, be sure to include that as an example. This will allow the employee the opportunity to reflect on their behavior and learn from it.

Address The Issue Head On

Often both employers and employees want to avoid conflict. This means they will try to get out of difficult conversations . But, when it comes to an employee's performance, the issues must be addressed.

By meeting with them and explaining the expectations you are in a better position to help empower your employee. By framing it as a meeting and less of a discipline referral your employee is more apt to embrace and adopt positive changes.

They are more likely to engage in a productive dialogue. Perhaps they were unaware of certain aspects of their duties and now they know how to perform their job better. It's important to train your employees and model appropriate behaviour.  

It's also important to give your employee the chance to improve their behavior and encourage them along the way.

Handing out discipline to an employee is not a comfortable experience for the employer or the employee.

Adopting a more motivational standpoint allows discipline to be viewed in a positive light. Employees who feel that their employer supports them and listens perform better.

Praised employees perform better than those who are constantly berated and written up.

Of course not all situations in the workplace warrant motivational discipline. Issues such as drug use, stealing, or sexual harassment are much bigger issues and may even need dismissal. 

Motivational discipline can be the difference between a good employee or a pink slip.