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Managing Employees After a Mistake

Here are the highlights from a good article on the Both Sides of the Table Blog about managing an employee after a mistake. Managing employees after a mistake is akin to re-engaging in a relationship after a fight. While the foundation and purpose of a professional relationship and intimate relationship are vastly different, there are some similarities as well. Here are the steps to managing an employee after a mistake:

1. Highlight the error Best to do this after the situation has happened, not when emotions are flared on both sides or you wont have a rational discussion or reflection. Tell the person that you’d like them to reflect on what happened so you can debrief on the topic in 48 hours. Obviously if the situation is urgent you need to put the situation right before reflecting on what happened.

2. Discuss what you would have expected I never understood why when managers did reviews they’d say what you did wrong without a clear ex­pla­na­tion of what they think you should have done. If you don’t have an answer for what the right process or right behavior would be then you’re not going to be very effective in helping the person to be better next time.

3. Help them plan the new rules / process to ensure the mistake isn’t repeated Be a problem solver. Work on the new process with them. Talk about exactly what needs to happen next time. They need a map for success not just a this better never happen again arse kicking.

4. Don’t im­me­di­ate­ly go back to buddy buddy nice guy. To be an effective dis­ap­point­ed dad they need to feel a little distance and a sense that all is not OK. This is really hard as a parent because you want to just go up and hug your kids. I feel the lesson isn’t absorbed as much this way. Think of it as the penalty box or a time-out or whatever. But they need a cooling off period from being in your good graces. They need to know it is not OK what happened and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But not a sense that they are now not to be trusted. In fact, I think the best approach is if they feel they need to re-earn your trust.

5. Don’t yell. Yelling yields resentment in the receiver and often makes the message un­palat­able (I have a temper like anybody. I cannot say I’ve never yelled. I got really angry with my assistant, for example, but only one time since we’ve worked together. I yelled. I had regret for weeks and we had to spend way more time working through the issue because I inflamed the situation than would have been the case if I would have kept my cool. I lost twice. I had to rebuild trust. It worked against me, not for me.)

6. Praise people publicly, but discipline people privately If you do need to discipline people don’t try to make a public spectacle of them to set an example. People won’t learn they’ll just think you’re an asshole. People absorb their mistakes when they aren’t em­bar­rassed by them.

Published inProfessional Relationships

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