The Art of Conflict: How to Reprimand Your Staff Correctly

People are different from each other. People think differently from each other. People act differently from each other. People believe different things from each other. People will always believe they are the good guy in any given situation even if they are wrong. People have different opinions from each other. 

If you have employees in your business, you have likely felt the pain that this reality (i.e. people are different from each other) can cause. In business, at the root of every problem, there is a person. If you have drama between two staff people, someone is responsible for it. If you have a staff person that is not performing their job functions to the degree that you have laid out, someone is responsible for it. If you have a vendor that is not measuring up to the standard or quality of work that you have expected, someone is responsible for that. 

Sometimes, the person responsible for that is you. As a leader in business, you must always be asking yourself, “Was I clear about what I wanted”, “Was there any doubt in what I expected as the result of this task or job”, or “Did I do my job to train and mentor this person well enough to complete the job”. 

In some cases, the answer to those questions is “yes”. In that case, you need to find the responsible party. Let’s say you find the responsible party and feel your stomach drop in disappointment or you are angry that you paid for a result that you did not receive. What is the right course of action? 

In the scenarios that you find that someone was at fault, you need to reprimand someone. 

No, I don’t mean the kind of brow-beating screaming match that you are used to. 

I am talking about a quick, private, gentle, uncomfortable, and clear reprimand that leads to the result that you want! 

Here is a breakdown of what a good reprimand is:

A Good Reprimand Is Quick

A good reprimand is quick!

What do I mean by quick? Well, I mean 30 minutes or less. This is a good amount of time to be able to communicate your point and create a shared understanding of the problem as well as the resolution to the problem. 

Before your reprimand, write down what you want out of the conversation and create an agenda for yourself, so that you don’t get off task while you are having the conversation. It is important to ensure that the conversation goes about how you planned for it to go!

A Good Reprimand Is Private

There is an old adage that says, “Sins committed in private, get corrected in private. Sins committed in public, get corrected in public”. At the time of writing this, I am not sure where that saying comes from nor what the context was for that comment. I am keen to disagree with this policy. 

Reprimands in all forms should be done privately! As much as you would like to call out that gossiper (which is a form of stealing) in front of your team, don’t. Cultivating a culture where your team knows they can trust you to keep these kinds of conversations private is a great way to build trust and respect. 

If you reprimand in public your team will start to shy away from disclosing to you, and you will find more mistakes, but this time you won’t know where they came from or who is responsible. 

Pull the person aside, and maybe bring in a partner or someone from HR to be a witness. But don’t reprimand your team members in front of the entire team. 

A Good Reprimand Is Gentle

As the leader of your organization, your words are going to land with 2 to 5 times the intensity that you think they are going to land. Also, keep in mind that some of your team members are harder on themselves than you could ever be. 

You know the team members I am talking about. The ones that shrink in the face of criticism. 

A reprimand from their leader or the owner of the company could be demoralizing and crushing if done harshly or in anger. 

If you are angry, work out your emotions before coming to the conversation. In fact, according to neurological research, if you allow a strong emotion to hijack your amygdala for 90 seconds, your prefrontal cortex will be hindered or shut-down for 90 minutes. In your spare time Google “The 90 Second Pause” or click on this link for more information:

Since you have 90 seconds to work through any strong emotion, it is critical that you take those precious moments and control your executive functioning.

A Good Reprimand Is Clear

It is unfair to your team to be unclear. 

Your reprimand needs to outline very clearly what the team member has done wrong and why. This is why a job description or a Key Result Area is so important. Most companies don’t write down what they expect of each team member and instead rely on ad-hoc conversations to guide their company. 

Before you come to a reprimand, be sure that your team member is not going to be surprised by you bringing the issue up. This requires that you have been clear about the results that you expect and have reiterated your values and expectations. 

When you have to reprimand, try and aim for a lack of surprise on the side of your team member.

A Good Reprimand Is Uncomfortable…for everyone

Reprimanding a team member, especially one that you enjoy, is not easy and should be uncomfortable for everyone. 

This should be uncomfortable for you because things are not working the way you need them to, and maybe you don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with this person. 

That is totally understandable! But you also need to protect your business, and the fastest way to ruin a business is through poor leadership. Reprimanding is one of the burdens of leadership that people don’t really think about. 

Have the courage to set the boundaries where you need them and hold your people accountable for when they cross your boundaries. The moment that firing or reprimanding becomes comfortable, take a vacation and reorient yourself to what being in business is about.


Reprimands don’t apply to a moral failure. Moral failure is lying, stealing, sexual assault, physical assault, gossiping, etc. In these circumstances, the employee should not stay in the building 5 minutes longer than they already are.

You have worked too long and too hard for your company to allow a moral failure to cause the downfall of your business, even if the person committing the moral failure is a family member. Reprimands are intended to help the person that you are speaking with and should encourage results and improvement.
Have the courage to lead your company well and have the hard conversations!






Practice Solutions, LLC provides mental and behavioral health billing solutions and services to your practice, freeing you up to focus on providing best-in-class care to your Patients and growing your practice.

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Jeremy Zug grew up in the Pacific Northwest where he discovered his passion for people. He decided to go to college in Chicago to further develop his skills working with people and pursue a degree in counseling. While in Chicago he worked for a group practice as a practice biller and marketing manager. This initiated his desire to pursue learning about the business of private practice, particularly medical billing. Jeremy and Kathryn Zug started Practice Solutions, LLC in 2017 with the vision of providing quality billing services to individual and group mental and behavioral health professionals.



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