Ten Ways To Correct Your Subordinates And Get Positive Results

A large part of an entrepreneur’s or manager’s job is correcting the errors of their subordinates. However, the way you criticize will determine whether you get significant improvement, provoke anger or have no effect at all.
Despite the importance of knowing how to manage these types of conversations, many people still go about the process making numerous blunders that ruin what could have been the perfect opportunity to bring about desirable change. Here are 10 ways to make the discussion fruitful:
Set first your objectives and time for the meeting. How serious is the problem? What do you want to change? You should estimate the proper amount of time to allocate for the discussion. Being forced to cut your meeting short would not only make it less effective, but may also give the impression to your subordinate that the meeting is not important.
Consider the personality, culture and seniority of the subordinate. You need to adapt your approach to the person. If the person is sensitive or senior, you need to be more careful with your words. There are certain people who respond better when you use more authoritative words, otherwise you may be seen as a wimp that can be ignored. If you are dealing with foreigners, their cultural difference must be known to avoid giving offence. There is also the special situation wherein your subordinate has more technical knowledge but you perceive that there are problems. In this case, you must take care not to directly challenge his competence, but instead try to lead him to find the solution himself by asking the right questions.
Be consistent in your treatment. Few things provoke resentment than blatant favoritism. This may also cause legal problems. If you allow one person to violate a rule, then you would find it difficult to charge anyone for that violation. Although everyone knows this, in practice there may be unintended inconsistencies. This often happens when there are special situations. For example, you may think you are being considerate in allowing people a few minutes leeway in arriving late due to massive flooding. To avoid inconsistencies, you should lay down the rules as when this would be allowed.
Be calm when delivering criticism. If you had just witnessed a particularly grievous blunder, you may be in an emotional state that is not conducive to discussing the problem with your offending subordinate. You may say things you will regret later on. If possible, postpone the meeting to the following day, but if not, then try to relax for a while and ponder carefully what you are going to say so that there would be less chance of an offensive statement.
Refrain from using emotive language. Also known as loaded language or loaded terms, emotive language has an additional meaning beyond its literal sense. Be careful not to exaggerate or add fuel to the fire by making a conscious effort to use objective language devoid of words that may have a negative implication beyond the facts of the matter.
Give him a chance to explain. Before jumping to conclusions, it is only fair to ask the person to explain his side. There may be special conditions that you do not know that prompted his behavior or decision. This approach is recommended even if the fault is evident. Giving due process to the subordinate would make him more agreeable to being corrected.
Let him save face. Never criticize in public. If your office does not permit sufficient privacy, it may be prudent to look for another place. People who lose face are likely to focus on nothing but your disregard for his dignity. It may also be more productive to use euphemisms or the use of a more agreeable word to sugarcoat the bitterness of being criticized. Be careful that the meaning is not distorted or misinterpreted.
Critique the specific mistake and not the person. Do not focus on what you believe are the person’s undesirable qualities. This is a personal attack and is bound to lead to unproductive discussion and antagonism. Frequently, we say generalizations that have almost the same effect. For example, saying that a person is lazy is less palatable than saying that project was not given sufficient attention.
Consider your timing. Especially on sensitive issues, at times, you can expect possible negative reactions. Current circumstances may aggravate the situation. On problems that are not urgent, you have more leeway to select the most opportune time to talk to your subordinate. One other factor to consider in deciding when to talk to your subordinates is their current emotional state.
Follow up and obtain feedback. It is critical that you find out the changes, if any, that occur. It may also be that there was miscommunication, and an error is being committed. In this case, your checking would enable you to make prompt corrections before too much damage is done. In fact, there are cases where you must watch from the start to prevent serious consequences.
Giving guidance to your workforce is one of the most important functions of management. How you do it is as important as the message you wish to impart. There are no shortcuts to becoming proficient on this. Only by constantly reading on this topic and actual practice would you be well-equipped to handle this task.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. C-4, Sunday, October 13, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.