The Affirmative Reprimand
On occasion, leaders have to come down hard on a team member and deliver a strong message. The idea behind a reprimand or admonishment is to prevent whatever infraction occurred from happening again.
Far too often, leaders deliver such a tough message as if they were prison guards, full of rancor and harsh words. Stern messages with a negative tone make the point, but often produce embarrassment, resistance, and internal seething.
When a leader knows the violation, no matter how grave, was an anomaly and out of character for the team member, they have the ability to mix reprimand with redemption all in same message. An Affirmative Reprimand is a clever way of expressing support, while acknowledging the transgression is unacceptable.
A few examples:
• “You are tremendously valuable to the team and we can’t afford to be without you. I am highly confident you won’t let the team down in this way ever again.”
• “I know you and how hard you have worked to get here. You won’t let this happen again.”
• “What happened is inconsistent with your values and who I know you to be. I will presume, therefore, that this will never occur again.”
• “Everyone knows how important the organization and team are to you, which is why we are so surprised by this transgression. I know you would never repeat this mistake.”
An Affirmative Reprimand makes it clear the infraction was a serious misstep, but also creates an expectation that the error in judgment will not occur in the future. When a team member feels supported by the prediction of a better future, they hear the reprimand as a line in the sand they dare not cross again, lest they lose the respect projected by the leader.
While not all people and infractions call for an affirmative reprimand, the next time you need to admonish a team member for a serious misstep, ask yourself if this might not be the best message. Affirming others when we admonish them does more than reduce the sting. It tells others that we expect the best from them and have the confidence they will deliver.
When leaders hold positive expectations, they prime others to live up to them.