If a customer or coworker asks you a question about a controversial subject, don’t offer your opinion. Instead say “I don’t have an opinion about that.” Then change the subject to something more work appropriate.
Avoid the words always and never when you deliver feedback of any kind. Those words back listeners into a corner, and the listeners feel the need to defend themselves. Because they allow no room for exceptions, definite words like that are easily disproved too, and that weakens your position.
When an employee makes a mistake, how you react will affect the person’s morale and self-confidence tremendously. Follow this eight-point plan to address the error appropriately:
- Deal with it quickly. Leave a mistake uncorrected and you will send the message that errors are acceptable.
- Maintain your professionalism. If you have a tendency to become emotional about problems, calm down and collect your thoughts before proceeding.
- Collect the facts. First, establish whether what happened was a true mistake or an innovative way of dealing with the issue. Maybe the employee has found another way of doing things that could be equally good or even better. If not, take the next step.
- Confront the issue, not the person. Beating up on people will only intimidate them, causing them to lose self-confidence and make even more mistakes.
- Show compassion. Who has never made a mistake? Show understanding by listening and demonstrating empathy.
- Turn the negative into a positive. Make this a learning opportunity. If possible, get employees to explain how they might deal with the issue differently next time.
- Determine the root cause. If the mistake occurred because of lax work habits, inform employees of the consequences of further mistakes—asking for their commitment to do better next time. If the problem arose from a lack of training, schedule the appropriate training.
- Follow up. Praise employees for correcting the problem, or apply the appropriate consequences if they have not.
— Adapted from The Leader’s Toolkit, Cy Charney, AMACOM, http://www.amanet.org/