Today, I want to share some advice about how to punish and reprimand Soldiers. These are some leadership lessons I learned throughout my Officer career that really helped me out. Hopefully, it will do the same thing for you.
I should start out by telling you that MOST people who join the Army are GOOD people. Yes, you get a few knuckleheads who challenge authority, and a few problem Soldiers, but most Soldiers have good intentions. Most people want to do the right thing and be part of a winning team.
As a leader, you will typically deal with two types of issues. The first issue is a good Soldier making a dumb mistake. The second issue is dealing with your problem Soldiers that repeatedly mess up. In every unit, I’d be willing to bet that 95% of the people are good people and 5% cause most of the problems.
You definitely need to find an effective way to punish and reprimand poor performance. That’s your job as a small unit leader: to hold people accountable to the Army Standard. Here is how I suggest you do that.
First and foremost, you want to set a good example yourself. You want to be a sterling example that others look up to. Maintain your discipline, be professional, have a good attitude, and follow the Army Standards. If you are a dirt bag, and have performance issues yourself, don’t expect your Soldiers to be saints. The speed of the leader really is the speed of the team.
In addition, you must deal with issues quickly. The longer you wait to deal with something, the worse things will get. If something is wrong, address the issue immediately.
Next, make sure that the punishment matches the crime. Don’t go overboard and give someone worse punishment than they deserve. Don’t be extreme!
The next thing I recommend is to have universal punishment. For example, if someone is late for formation, have a standardized way to punish people, such as the first instance is a verbal counseling, second instance is a written counseling and third instance is a rank reduction. Let everyone know what the punishment will be ahead of time. Publish your policies. Don’t play favorites. Hold everyone accountable to the standard. Simply put, don’t give one Soldier an Article 15 for missing formation, but allow someone else to get away with it with no punishment.
Another tip I highly recommend is to have some compassion when giving punishment. Don’t act like you are perfect and never mess up. Realize that everyone is a human being and everyone is bound to make mistakes at some point in time. I’m not telling you to be a push-over, but don’t forget what it was like to be a young 18 year old.
When it comes to your problem Soldiers, give them a chance to rehabilitate themselves. If that doesn’t work, get rid of them. Discharge them from the service. The Army does not need them. Do not just pass them off to another unit either. Do the counselings and create the paperwork trail, so you can discharge them. There are few things worse for morale than seeing a dirt-bag Soldier get over.
The bottom line is that it’s your job as a small unit leader to punish and reprimand Soldiers who cannot meet the Army Standards. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do that. Follow the advice in this post and you should do well.
What are your thoughts? What tips and advice can you share with our community about punishing and reprimanding Soldiers? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.