Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

Employee Discipline - Negative Feedback

Furniture World Magazine


How to give negative feedback and get positive results!


Question #1: Your new salesperson shows up for work at 10:04 instead of 10:00.

  • Mention to the employee to try to be on time in the future.

  • Appeal to his/her human side by explaining that you would appreciate it if s/he would come in a little earlier so s/he would be ready to serve customers promptly at 10:00.

  • Ignore it this time. After all, this was the first incident.

  • Make an example of the employee by yelling at him/her in front of co-workers.

  • Type up a written memo outlining the problem and have all employees sign it.

Read this article to find the correct answer.

Question #2: It is the second time a customer complained about the rudeness of one of your customer service people.

  • Take the employee aside and threaten them with dismissal.

  • Engage them in a frank discussion to find out if they have a personal problem which may be causing the behavior.

  • Explain that the behavior is unacceptable and tell them you are documenting the incident with a written warning.

  • Hire a noted executive trainer to coach them in proper customer service skills.

Read this article to find the correct answer.

Recently I met with a furniture sales manager who was experiencing a few more employee challenges than he would have liked. He had one employee that was occasionally rude to customers and another who became down right indignant towards him over disappointment in the schedule.

Both of those situations could have been avoided by previously drawing a clear line for his employees. For example; what would you do when a new employee scheduled for 10:00 am, shows up at 10:04 am? Many managers polled said they would nicely mention to the employee to try to be on time in the future. Still other managers said they would ignore it stating "after all it is only 4 minutes." There is a direct correlation between managers who give too many chances and look the other way with managers who have persistent personnel problems.

In the case of being late, what did you tell your employee his starting time was? Many managers who expect their employees to start work at 10:00 am, tell them 10:00 am. Instead tell your employees "Your starting time is 10:00 am. That means you are to be on the floor and ready to take care of our customers by 10:00 am. Allow yourself enough time to hang up your coat and finish your cup of coffee so that you will be enthusiastically on the sales floor by 10:00 am sharp." Even with seasoned employees I recommend a written memo that specifies the above. Have your employees sign it. This adds accountability.

When an employee first crosses an unacceptable line, assume that you did not clarify your expectations clearly enough. You now have an opportunity to clarify your expectations. Speak with the employee immediately, but not in front of others. Watch your vocabulary. Avoid words such as "try" and "I'd appreciate it if...". Replace them with "Let me clarify the expectations of your position" and " I need you to..."

When an employee repeats the same mistake a second time, be concerned. Address the situation promptly. Do not ask the employee why he was late. If you do, the employee often will exaggerate the situation to play on your sympathy and boy have I heard some doozies.

Great leaders are consistent and empathetic (being able to relate, while remembering their primary responsibility is to maintain excellent company standards). Simply explain that the behavior is unacceptable with a statement such as; "Mike we talked about being late before. I am documenting this warning on this form." On most disciplinary forms, there is a place for the employee's comments and both of your signatures. This process will often make a strong enough impression on the employee to prevent a bad habit from forming.

States such as New York require three documented, written warnings on the same offense to discredit unemployment claims. There are some circumstances (theft for example) where three warnings are not required. Consult your state unemployment agency for details and guidelines. While giving a written warning, address (don't attack) the observable behavior, not the person. Avoid the word "YOU". This way you are allowing the employee to improve without feeling embarrassed.

Giving a documented warning allows your employee an opportunity to improve while demonstrating your seriousness. If the behavior persists, document each occurrence on a disciplinary form and have the employee sign it. You may be dealing with an individual whose job is not a high priority in his life or he may not be committed enough to the position. Discuss your concerns with the employee.

When an employee makes the same mistake three times, you are probably dealing with an employee unwilling or unable to perform his job. It is best for him and the company, that he move on to another position that he is more suited for.

Many managers report that when one unacceptable behavior is tolerated or overlooked, other employees act out also (consciously or unconsciously). The other employees may or may not risk being late but they will act out somehow. The next thing you know, you have a group of people giving you endless grief.

The bonus of writing someone up is that the employee often will tell other employees what a mean and nasty person you are. They are trying to get the other employees support and avoid embarrassment for themselves. That's O.K., actually that's great. Don't worry about telling your side, the real message that got back to the others was "boy, he stepped across the line and something bad happened, I better follow the guidelines." Do not discuss one employee's disciplinary action with any other employee.

Beyond the when, how and why of discipline remember to step back and assess your hiring practices and communication style. Track your turnover ratio for the last two years. Excessive turnover is very costly to any business. Monitor the skill levels of your current employees with fun quizzes and by monitoring their work. Communicate your long and short term objectives and goals to employees. Not communicating your goals and objectives can in itself lead to undue frustration and turmoil. And most importantly, catch your employees doing things right. When they do, give specific praise to encourage the repetition of the positive behavior.

Laura Laaman is a popular sales, management and customer service trainer. Questions can be directed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at editor@furninfo.com.