How to Correct Employees’ Mistakes Without Hurting Their Feelings

An employee’s behavior is a response to how a leader effectively corrects an offender’s behavior.  It is often said that an employee quits his job, not because of the company, but because of the manager.

For instance, an employee made a blunder and was subjected to an embarrassing incident… or the manager yelled at him and threatened to fire him because he has blown a very important delivery to a client.  As a result, that employee started exhibiting poor job performance or he has been greatly demoralized that he considered quitting as a remedy. 

Such a situation can be avoided with the right leadership skills. So what can a manager do when an employee messes up?

A Scene in a Meeting

One day while in a meeting in one of the companies I’ve worked for, the president suddenly got so mad with one of the top managers because of one wrong decision. He started shouting at the manager, ripping off every inch of his dignity.

Right at that moment I actually felt how embarrassed my colleague was.  And while it was happening, I could not help but think that if I was in my colleague’s place, I would have been so demoralized that I wouldn’t have the courage to face the president or anyone in the company anymore.  Well, true enough, without wasting another day, that afternoon, that manager wrote and submitted his letter of resignation. 

Don’t Lose that Good Employee

That colleague of mine was one of the best leaders of the company.  He has contributed a lot to the success of the organization, that he has been labelled as a very valuable asset because of his skills and abilities.  And now, the company is losing him.  Upon receiving the letter of resignation, the president was surprised, it was as if a glass of ice cold water had been thrown on his face. He whispered to himself “Was I that bad? We cannot lose him now”, but we heard him clearly.

Calling Out a Mistake

Disagreements, arguments and heated discussions have become the usual scenarios during meetings. Managers are given the task to come up with critical decisions that could either make or break your company.  When an employee does something wrong, the superior’s instinct most likely is to call it out and show how to do it better. If not done with finesse, it can lead to dispirited or demotivated members.

4 Tips to Correct Mistakes

Now what if lapses were done by our subordinates? How do we correct employees’ mistakes and talk to them without hurting their feelings? Here are common sense practices that frequently get forgotten at the heat of the moment:

Tip 1 – Control your emotions and watch your language. 

Take a deep breathe.  Do not talk to your employee if you are still angry. Calm yourself. Remember, in the midst of your anger, you can yell or say words that your employee may resent and that you may be sorry about.  The way you correct employee’s mistakes can be a source of disengagement among them. Anything so negative can put your people to shame. Remember, you cannot take your words back. You’ve damaged your relationship. You may have to rebuild the trust again.

Tip 2 -Talk to your employee in private.

Apply the sandwich feedback approach. It starts by acknowledging the nice things that came out of the task, no matter how trivial you think it was.

For example, after a meeting with the heads of the department, you call on your secretary. Praise her for doing a good job in making sure that everyone attended the meeting. However, you noticed that some of them were not given a copy of the meeting’s agenda and because of this the attendees couldn’t readily participate in the discussion.

To correct the mistake, ask the secretary what could have been done differently to have a better result.  Let her assess the situation and come up with ideas.  Your secretary may say that she should have checked if everyone was given a copy of the agenda. Close the conversation by telling her that he did well and could do even better next time.  Remember, speak to her in private. Reward people publicly, but reprimand them privately.

Tip 3 -Address problems immediately. 

Do not ever wait for problems to build up.  Regularly provide your employees with feedback.  It is much more effective when corrections are given in smaller but more-frequent increments. Ask if they have questions and allow them to give you updates.  This will be a point of reference in case a problem occurs in the future.  Focus on facts not on feelings.

Tip 4 -Keep track of your employee’s records. 

How many times has your staff made a mistake?  Can it actually be a rare occurrence?  There might be factors beyond the employee’s control which is the source of the mistake. Examples are co-workers who didn’t fulfill their responsibilities or clients who are not so cooperative. Be sure to document the incident and make follow-up conversations.  Be open-minded and don’t jump into conclusions.

Our employees are human beings.  Sometimes, managers make inappropriate decisions, so do subordinates.  Some botches happen because we have empowered the employees and so they take risks by trying something new.  Yes, they may be at fault. But even so, make sure that we treat erring employees fairly and avoid biases to avoid conflicts or grievance from our people. That’s how we correct employees’ mistakes. Our employees must learn from their blunders. As leaders, we need to be certain that employees understand THE WHY. Employees must possess the knowledge and skills to improve their competency and minimize the risk of committing the same gaffe without feeling fear.  By doing so, we create a learning environment in our workplace.  Let it be a teachable moment for you.

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