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Part of being a leader is to give clear and constructive feedback when an employee’s behaviour is not aligned with the expectations of you and the rest of the team. Such behaviour may be:

  • Missing deadlines or breaking promises
  • Damaging team culture
    • Slandering/badmouthing
    • Elbowing
  • Arriving late or unprepared for meetings
  • Breaking with company policies

1. Do it quickly

Corrective feedback rots over time. Deliver it while it is fresh. If you wait, your employee may not even remember the behaviour you are referring to.

2. Keep it short and positive

Depending on the gravity of the behaviour, keep it brief, informal and positive. Your goal should be to increase trust between the two of you. You don’t have to make a formal meeting. A walk-and-talk or just pulling the employee aside is better. Open your meeting with a funny observation, a compliment on an accomplishment underlines the positive tone

3. Describe neutrally what you’ve observed or been made aware of

State the purpose of the meeting in brief words, and use a personal tone. Don’t hold back, get all the info out in the open.

  • “I just noticed that you came in late for the team meeting, and it’s happened the last three times.”
  • “I was just informed by Mary that you missed the deadline for Project X for the second time.”
  • “I noticed in the meeting with Supplier X that you said some things about Mary.”

4. Let your employee reflect

Use non-judgemental questions to allow the employee to reflect on the observation, and share their side.

  • “What happened?”
  • “Should I be worried”?
  • “Do you know what I’m referring to?”
  • “Did I get it right, or is your experience different?”

Leave room for discussion, and get to the bottom of the employees side. Sometimes, you’ll see there was a good reason for the employee’s behaviour, or you might have misunderstood something. Other times, the employee will see their mistake.

5. Explain why the behaviour is inappropriate, and get agreement

Even if it seems obvious, explain to the employee why the behaviour is not acceptable, and allow the employee to agree on the validity of your reflection. As in the second example below, adding positive feedback can strengthen your employees commitment to improving, as long as it’s genuine.

  • “We’re a group of professionals, we should be able to expect from each other that promises are kept, don’t you agree?”
  • “I know how easy it is to drop a comment like that, but added up they really hurt our company culture. I need us all to be on the same side to maintain a great workplace. Do you know what I mean? Especially from someone as senior as yourself, people look up to you here.”
  • “I want us to have a better meeting culture than that, and when you’re late, it lowers the quality of the meeting. Do you see what I mean”?

6. Ask how the change might be addressed

At this point, most employees will have an understanding of your concern, and have agreed that it is not optimal. Ask them how the change might be implemented – the answer is often very obvious.

  • “I’m glad we agree. What can we do to change this?”
  • “This is such a small thing, but so important. Is there anything we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”
  • “This is not like you – is there anything I can do to help you address this?”

7. Finish on a positive note

Having their mistakes or misbehaviours corrected is often followed by a slight feeling of embarrassment, but as long as it is kept positive and addressed one-on-one, it will rarely lead to sulking. Changing the subject to something unrelated, genuine and enjoyable at the end of the meeting will take the edge off even more;

  • “I loved how you chose to do X in the presentation.”
  • “Your input on X during the sales meeting was really interesting.”
  • Even a simple “Did you watch the game last night?” works

8. Follow up after some time

If you see your employee making an effort to improve, follow up after some time.


Good luck!


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