Employee Punishment: Weighing the Pros and Cons

3 min read

Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes too. It’s perfectly normal. There are no perfectly planned routes or obvious sequences. Most of our employees work in situations of great uncertainty and, to a greater or lesser extent, make mistakes. If a person doesn’t make gross, destructive errors, while increasingly producing more work results — that’s great.

In this article, we’ll try to understand where the line is between excusable mistakes and those that jeopardize a department or even an entire company.

What Mistakes Are Not Critical

If an employee’s so-called error rate is at an acceptable level, that is, metrics do not grow from zero to 1.1% when the norm is 10%, encourage this employee. Help them strengthen what makes their results grow. And gradually help them correct their mistakes.

Why People Make Mistakes

People usually make mistakes due to incompetence: they do not plan their work and simply forget about some tasks. Ultimately, this turns into a problem. If you notice this in your employee — help them learn to plan. From my point of view, punishment does not work. By punishment, I mean actions that lead to a decrease in motivation and a sense of loss in employees. Usually, this upsets people, making them perform even worse.

Most often, people make mistakes due to incompetence in a certain area. It may be a matter of personal effectiveness, planning, or human relations. Try to boost their skills in this area, explain why it is a mistake, and teach the employee how to act to reduce the number of errors.

There are management principles that have been formulated long ago: if an employee shows gradual growth, you retain them by not changing anything drastically. By doing so, you support this growth. Very often, managers make a mistake in such situations because they want the employee to do even more and even better.

If it’s a salesperson, they are expected to generate more and more sales. But if there are sales, and they are regular, such employees should be valued because they are doing well. Appreciate and reward their efforts. Thanks to the employee’s steady growth, as a manager, you can predict the future, making it easier to manage and coordinate the work of other employees.

Mistakes and Corporate Culture

Every company strives to create a specific atmosphere within its team that would provide a comfortable environment for every employee. One of the keys to such an environment is the approach to mistakes. In companies where errors are seen as an inevitable part of the learning and development process, employees feel more free to show initiative and innovative approaches. This leads to accelerated growth and development both for individuals and the company as a whole.

A corporate culture that encourages discussion and analysis of mistakes allows employees not to be afraid of taking responsibility and making difficult decisions. Such companies develop special programs and training to teach their employees how to effectively solve problems and analyze situations in which mistakes were made. This approach contributes to the personal growth of each employee.

Research shows that in an atmosphere where every employee can share their experience and receive feedback without fear of being judged, the level of engagement and productivity is significantly higher. Examples of many successful companies confirm that a culture in which mistakes are welcomed as an opportunity for improvement leads to the creation of innovative products and solutions that contribute to sustainable growth.

It is important to emphasize that the role of leadership in shaping such a culture is invaluable. Leaders must actively demonstrate their willingness to learn from their own mistakes and share experiences with the team. This creates an environment where every team member feels valued and contributes to the overall success.

Using Feedback to Analyze Mistakes

The interaction between a manager and a subordinate is one of the key elements of any team’s success. Feedback helps employees understand how their work aligns with the company’s expectations and which aspects need improvement. It also provides a clear understanding of the steps needed to achieve better results. This interaction becomes especially important in the context of correcting mistakes and shortcomings in work.

The practice of regular one-on-one meetings, where achievements, problems, and solutions are discussed, creates an atmosphere of openness and trust in the team. In such an environment, employees find it easier to share their thoughts and suggestions, as well as to accept constructive criticism.

Equally important is that the manager must be open to feedback from employees. This allows for a two-way dialogue in which each side feels their significance and contribution to the common cause. Such an approach fosters growth and development of every team member, based on mutual respect and support.


The approach to punishing employees for mistakes should be balanced and thoughtful. The key aspect of personnel management is not so much to prevent any mistakes as to create conditions under which employees can learn from their blunders and improve their skills and knowledge. In this context, the role of corporate culture and the feedback system proves to be critically important.

A culture that recognizes the value of mistakes as an integral part of the learning and development process, where every employee feels support from colleagues and management, fosters an open and innovative approach to work. Feedback, conducted in a constructive and developmental spirit, serves as a powerful tool for stimulating the growth of each employee and strengthening their motivation. It is important that such feedback is not a one-off action but part of an ongoing dialogue between managers and subordinates aimed at achieving common goals.

Thus, in response to the question of whether employees should be punished for mistakes, it’s more productive and effective to focus on creating a work environment and culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for development and where every team member feels involved in the process of collective growth and improvement. This approach leads to high professional results and builds a healthy and supportive atmosphere in the team.

Alex Visotsky Alex Visotsky is a co-founder of Business Booster. The accelerator which since 2009 designed to help companies achieve effectiveness and systematization. With over 7200 trainings delivered, Alex Visotsky has helped numerous companies all over the world to implement the Business Operating System into their organizational structures, which lets them run and scale business without their owners’ participation. He is the author of multiple bestselling books, including “The Business Owner Defined”, “Small Business. Big Game” and others that have globally sold more than 180,000 copies.

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