How To Correct An Employee

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a subordinate who reacts angrily when confronted about a complaint:

I have a serious problem. I am a manager who has been in that position for four years. Every time I approach an employee with a complaint that employee will get mad and call the office and spread to the customers that I’m mean and don’t know how to talk to people. I have tried everything including writing instead of talking. What can I do?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

One of the toughest things to do is to correct an adult and do it in a way that gets results but doesn’t make them less cooperative in the future. The best way to achieve that is by showing respect for them, being courteous even if firm, and building a relationship that involves trust and mutual efforts to improve customer service and build the business.In your case, you should also be concerned about employees who you can prove are saying negative things to customers. I’m sure your company doesn’t want that kind of talk and there are surely rules about it.

No matter how an employee feels that kind of talk should not be happening. Talk to HR or to your manager about that part of the situation and get their advice.The second part of your concern has to do with communicating with employees. It’s hard to know what could be the problem without knowing what your employees find objectionable. Maybe it’s your tone of voice and facial expressions, so you sound demeaning or angry. Maybe you use phrases that imply they are lazy. Or, maybe you are doing just fine and the employees simply don’t want to be criticized. You need to do a bit of analysis to decide what you might need to change, if anything.

One way to approach a corrective talk is to say fewer words instead of more, while still be complete. Consider stating the problem, asking for their reasoning, then your direction about what they can do to fix the problem or what they should do next time. Keep it brief and with a tone that implies, “We’re working on this together.”You might say, “Greg, Mr. Miller called and said you only did half the work he expected. What about that?” Greg explains, and you say, “You may have thought it was OK to leave early, but it wasn’t. You could get in serious trouble, especially if we lose a customer over it. I want you to promise me that you’ll never do that again.” Then stop and let him promise or refuse.You’d put that in your own words, but it shouldn’t be a lot of words.

If you need a longer conversation for the problem, still keep in mind that no adult wants to be lectured, even those who probably deserve a lecture.You work for a large corporation. Ask your manager if they have classes or text books for supervisors. Or, ask your manager for input about it. You may find that he thinks you’re doing well and would want to know that some employees are exaggerating to make you look bad.You may also want to read some books or online material about corrective conversations. Another thought is to talk to others in your role in the organization and ask their advice.Best wishes to you about this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.