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The Reprimand Sandwich

I’ve been meaning to write about this since mid-December when it came up in a conversation. For those of you who’ve never heard of the reprimand sandwich, explaining it won’t do it justice unless you first reflect on some of the most miserable experiences you’ve had when being disciplined by your boss.

In extreme cases, it’s not uncommon to find stories of supervisors calling you into their office to ridicule or chastise you over some minor issue. You usually leave feeling pissed, demeaned and asking yourself why the you take it. You’d rather just quit and move on, but the pay is too good. It may just take too much effort to start over. Perhaps in the worst case, you’re blamed for someone else’s failures or the boss finds that he needs to blame his mistakes on you. In any case, it’s not fun to be you.

If you’re in a place of leadership, you surely don’t want to lead your team in the manner I’ve listed when you need to correct someone. One successful method I’ve seen employed is the reprimand sandwich. It’s a fairly simple concept, but very effective.

  1. Begin with recognizing a quality of the person receiving the reprimand. Hard work, excellent work, passion, etc.

  2. Speak about, “there’s something we need to talk about. You dropped the ball on this.” Don’t treat it lightly. Some supervisors really have a hard time with this. Consequently, it doesn’t serve the team member well since they begin to develop poor work habits that won’t benefit them in the long term.

  3. Then close out with affirmation. “Man I really appreciate all you do. You’re a valuable asset to our team.”

This method usually leaves the employee/team member with a high sense of ownership not only about this incident, but also their everyday responsibilities.

To read more on the reprimand sandwich and other techniques, check out some of John Maxwell’s books. Developing the Leader within You

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