Character-Based Correction

(Employee discipline focused on restoration)

Managers who are trained in "Character-Based Correction," can restore employees who are exhibiting performance and behavioral problems. This method has turned around numerous employees who otherwise would have been fired. Following are some of the steps managers use to restore / discipline employees.

  1. Act the day you hear of the employee’s negative behavior
    - Time minimizes the offense
    - Start the process - especially if you're indecisive
    - Don’t start with praise
    - Never act in anger

  2. Prepare your heart by remembering the goal ... it's long-term restoration

  3. Criticize privately - praise publicly

  4. Clarify the infraction and discern why it happened

  5. Emphasize your responsibility to them and others

  6. State the action done
    - State the problem caused by the action
    - Encourage the practice of____________________ (desired character trait(s)) and explain correct behavior (avoid focusing on negative traits)

  7. Help them understand correction is in their best interest!

  8. Discern regret vs. repentance. (Are they sorry they got caught or are they sincere about change?)

  9. Consequences must be appropriate

  10. Get a commitment to meet objectives

  11. Set a time for accountability

  12. Restore the relationship. (Don’t cut off communication, and recognize their changed behavior!)



Helen is a new employee who was a very good employee, punctual and productive. However she recently became a poor employee. She often is tardy and absent, unproductive and makes too many errors.


You rarely apply all 12 steps and this is not for minor infractions.

Keep in mind that Helen is young and in her previous positions she had supervisors who didn't have good leadership skills to help her overcome some of her rough edges.


Start by saying:  Helen, we both know your performance isn't what it used to be. I'm hoping we can get it back to where it was a few weeks ago.  This is a good way to start, because you're demonstrating you're on her side and you're not simply going to berate her. Employees respond quite differently to managers who communicate they are on their side and want to help them succeed, than to mangers who berate employees.

[Or: Every once in a while I need to do something that I am very uncomfortable doing. And I need to do it now for your best interest. You need to be aware that ...]


In the last week you had an unscheduled absence and were late two times. And when you are here, you conservatively spend over half an hour away from your work to talk with other workers. This adds extra stress to all of us here and reduces our capacity to serve our customers. Maybe you don't realize it, but your co-workers do a lot of complaining about your lack of concern for the extra burden you put on them when they have to fill in for you. In the past I've seen tardy employees loose friends and have a hard time getting favors.


I'm responsible to make sure employees fulfill their obligations and others aren't taxed beyond their limits. I need to encourage you to focus on practicing the character traits of punctuality and dependability. Punctuality is showing esteem for others by doing the right thing at the right time vs. Tardiness. Dependability is fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrifice vs. Inconsistency. [Avoid focusing on more than two traits at a time.]


Close: Your past performance leads me to believe you are a good candidate for promotion. Addressing these areas will be to your benefit and I'm confident you won't let me down.


This is a true story. Helen [not real name] simply didn't realize the problems she was causing herself and others. 


We often hate to discipline people, but this is an opportunity for our leadership to shine and significantly impact the productivity of others (especially with young people developing their work ethic)!


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