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Crying Over Spilt Milk
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18 July 2005

Dear F@W
I manage a group of software technicians who build software for our company. Recently, one of my people made a mistake, and I blew up in her face. Two weeks later she quit. Looking back, I realized that I overreacted. How do I prevent this from happening again?
–Megan, Boise, Idaho

Dear Megan,
The first thing to keep in mind is what is done cannot be undone. However, if you try to learn a lesson from every mistake that you make, there is a good chance that it will not be repeated. In this case, you might benefit from some of the following steps when you get angry:

  1. Wait until the next day when you discover that an employee has made a mistake. That will give you enough time to cool off before raising the issue.
  2. Before you start the conversation, ask yourself what you want the outcome to be… Do you want to give the person a tongue-lashing, or do you want to ensure that the mistake does not happen again? If the latter, then you should focus your comments on how the person can succeed instead of how the person has failed.
  3. Reverse roles by asking yourself how you would wish to be treated if you were the person who messed up.
  4. Always remember to compliment the person on some things that they are doing right. That will give them the confidence to face the things that they are doing wrong.
  5. Offer to meet with the person in a week or so to discuss any follow-up questions they may have.

These steps will ensure that bitterness and resentment are kept to a minimum when you have to take someone to task.


 
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