When you work in an office setting, you will encounter a wide range of people with many of them possibly requiring some sort of correction. Your co-worker, for example, mispronounces your name while your supervisor misinterprets the process resulting in confusion among your team members. You want to set them right, perhaps out of a sense of duty, but you don’t know how to do it right, especially since you don’t want to come across as a condescending know-it-all or a stuck-up busybody.
What can you do? Well, you may want to consider these six ways.
1. Start on a Positive Note
Everybody has feelings and, as such, it’s important to be considerate when correcting other people. You certainly want the same consideration when you’re in the wrong, too! You just never know when the same person you’ve corrected nicely will be in the same position you were before so it pays to apply the Golden Rule.
Besides, you have to remember that a simple issue can quickly escalate into a major issue when you approach it with a negative mindset. You should then think of something positive about the issue that requires correction and of something positive to start the conversation. Think of it as cushioning the blow so the other person’s ego doesn’t take a beating.
You can say, for example, “Hey, John, your paper looks great! But I’d like to point out a few things that may have escaped your attention. I hope that’s okay.” You’re complimenting John first so your suggestions don’t sound overbearing.
2. Skip the Authoritative Tone
Sure, you’re the best at what you do and your co-workers frequently ask for your advice. But there’s a thin line between being an expert and a know-it-all with a catty attitude. There’s also the matter of everybody having flaws, big and small, which means that we’re all imperfect and we all made mistakes – hell, we will continue making mistakes for as long as we talk, walk and do!
With this in mind, you would want to be less authoritative, close-minded and confrontational when suggesting changes to your co-workers and superiors at work. You may even find that even as you want to correct somebody, you also need correction.
The best thing to do here is to point out the issue as equals and then be open to suggestions. You can, for instance, say, “I’ve been studying the marketing plan and there’s something off about Section 10. Perhaps we can look at it together?”
3. Ask Questions
When you ask friendly questions, you’re approaching the person and the issue as a friend, not an enemy. You’re not coming off as a bossy person who should have kept his mouth shut instead of being a busybody.
But even a friendly question can come off as hostile when it’s said in a less than friendly manner. Be conscious of your voice quality including the pitch and volume of your voice. Use a calm yet engaging voice while keeping your voice volume at a normal level. Be sure, too, that you have the person’s full attention so you don’t have to repeat the process.
4. Give Evidence
There’s no need to give detailed documentation, not even photos, and video evidence when you want to back up your suggestions. You’re neither prosecuting anybody nor defending yourself – you’re suggesting a correction that can benefit you and the other person so detailed evidence is unnecessary. Besides, if you present it, you’re likely putting the other person on the defensive and it’s something you don’t want since it can mean war, of a sort.
Instead, offer a practical demonstration of the solution, if applicable. You can say, “You know, we’ve encountered a similar situation about two months ago and here’s how we dealt with it. Perhaps, we can use it for this one. What do you think?”
5. Offer to Help
Remember that nobody really wants to mess up things in the workplace, not even intentionally make everybody’s job harder. (If you have a co-worker or supervisor who makes intentional mistakes to piss off the rest, then you’re not going anywhere with corrections) More often than not, it was an honest mistake that resulted in his embarrassment and there’s no need to add to it.
Be kind to your co-worker and then offer assistance. You’re not just being considerate of his feelings but, more importantly, you’re helping him to do the job right the next time.
6. Be Conscious of Your Body Language
The line between condescending and constructive can boil down to your non-verbal communication skills. You may be using the right words but if your body language and facial expressions aren’t in line with them, then your efforts at correction will be less effective than what you envisioned.
Being productive at work by offering suggestions and being patronizing toward erring co-workers can be a fine line to tread. But there’s a way to strike a balance such that you maintain the professional relationships between you and your co-workers.
Also, check out these 5 Ways of Dealing With The Demands of Your Millennial Boss