HR Tips - Being Firm with Employees - Zupnick Associates

(By: Brittany Brooks)

Being firm with employees is never ideal, but it’s a part of balancing the employee relationship and maintaining good communication skills. 

We must admit, there will be times when we encounter an employee that’s not doing their work, not working efficiently, or possibly upsetting others. These are the times when you’ll be required to be firm, harsh, or strict with an employee.

To help you get through those nerve-racking moments, here are 5 HR tips on being firm with employees:

1. Make a clear distinction

For some people, it’s hard to separate the behavior from the person, but you have to remember this isn’t an attack on their character. You’re trying to neutralize undesirable behaviors so that the workplace can operate to its potential as a whole.

It’s vital to make a clear distinction between the person and their behavior.

For instance, you’ve noticed an employee not completing their work efficiently, and they’re beginning to fall behind. Approach them with a sense of care because you’ve observed their performance decline from what it used to be.

This doesn’t mean they’re lazy or unreliable. The employee might be going through something we don’t see or need some extra help from us.

 2. Stick to the facts

Stick to the facts that you have evidence to prove. There’s nothing worse than mentioning something relayed via office chatter. It could put them on the defensive and demonstrate that you heed rumor mill gossip.

For this tip to work smoothly, you’ll need to ensure your documentation is on point. Include the date of the incident and details from the situation/scenario witnessed by the reporting supervisor, manager, or employee.

Use analytics or data from the previous year if you’re looking for proof of the decline in their work. You don’t necessarily have to pull it out, but if the employee didn’t notice their work output was suffering or believes there’s no merit in what you’re saying, this is the proof you need.

3. Conflict avoidance is NOT in your interest

Sometimes it feels better to avoid conflict altogether, and we think it’s the safest route, but it’s not. Avoiding the confrontation doesn’t make it go away or make it better.

In fact, the situation can incubate and develop into a bigger problem. Luckily, if you follow the first two HR tips mentioned, conflict avoidance shouldn’t be an issue because you’re building your confidence in the situation.


By making a clear distinction between the employee’s character and the behavior displayed at work, you’re making sure this decision isn’t based on personal opinion. Sticking to the facts helps you see an issue in the making and allows you to prepare for the conversation to come.  

4. The cure for intimidation

Some employees can tell that you’re just as uncomfortable as they are and they might use intimidation to control the situation. You have to be confident to present the issue to the employee to really wrangle with intimidation. 

You also have to be confident in the information and the facts in front of you because you can’t combat facts and numbers. Even if the employee tries to intimidate you, remember you can rely on this information and the details you already know.

If the intimidation persists, ask yourself, “Is this the type of employee we want representing us?

What if they’re doing this to other employees?

It makes you wonder if this behavior is displayed in other situations when you’re not around. 

5. Don’t second-guess yourself

You can’t second guess yourself and be firm with employees. If you’ve been documenting their actions, behavior, or the issue, you have no reason to second-guess yourself.

Everything is right there.

By the time you plan to meet with the employee, hopefully, you’ve already discussed it with the department manager or they may have already reached out to you. Further solidifying your decision in the meeting and setting the tone.

Ready, set, deliver!

Now that you have a few techniques to prepare yourself, it’s time to conduct the meeting, which can be the most challenging part. Remember to take a deep breath and state the matter at hand.

Keep it simple, matter of fact, and don’t let the meeting drag on. Be prepared to listen if the employee has an issue as well and here’s something to keep in mind; being firm means you have to follow through all the way.

If the employee requests more training for their job, a program the company uses, etc., take the necessary steps to make sure that happens. Maybe they’re having an issue with a coworker or supervisor. If so, address it as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about personal matters, but we can have resources ready to help them with their search.

These HR tips may help you prepare mentally and professionally to reprimand an employee. If problems persist, you might have to take it a step further. Here’s some more information to help you along the way – How to Let an Employee Go

Leave a Reply

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on odnoklassniki
Share on tumblr
Share on digg
Share on skype
Share on stumbleupon
Share on mix
Share on telegram
Share on pocket
Share on xing
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

learn how we
can help you.

Fill In The Fields Below
and we'll get in touch