my team complains I don’t give them feedback fast enough

A reader writes:

I’m at the management level in a medium-sized company. For the most part, things have been going smoothly. I do a lot of one-on-one coaching, and it usually goes without incident. I have a private, casual chat once something minor has happened two or three times — enough for me to know it’s not a one-off, but not so frequently it’s habit yet.

However, more and more, when I try to give feedback, a couple specific people reply with, “You never told me! Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”

This is me telling them! Literally the entire point of the conversation is to tell them the feedback and help them resolve whatever the challenge is. If I corrected every minor mistake the very first time it happened, morale would plummet and they would hate their jobs. Nobody wants that!

There’s no reason for people to fear my feedback. We don’t “discipline” people who mess up, and I typically don’t even care the mistake happened beyond my responsibility for quality control. I’ve tried different formats for the feedback, like email, instant messenger, and in person, but it hasn’t changed the response.

I don’t know where these defensive replies are coming from or why they are trying to turn the conversation around on me. It’s emotionally exhausting though, and I don’t want my team members freaking out every time I tell them something minor they need to improve upon. I need to be able to give feedback without the drama. Please help!

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. What's in a name?*

    I wonder if this feedback also includes the employee having to redo large chunks of work and if their frustration might be that if they were told after previous occurrences, they wouldn’t be having to repeat what they already did.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      How many times does it take for it to be a “pattern”? If the LW is being nice by letting it go for too long then, yeah, I can see why her reports would be frustrated. I’d rather hear about it after a very short “pattern”.

      1. Lana Kane*

        LW said she gives feedback about 2-3 times. I think that is a reasonable way to gauge that it’s not a one off, but still early enough for corrective action. LW also says this is for minor things – presumably bigger mistakes are addressed right away.

      2. JSPA*

        “I told you as soon as I realized it was a thing.”

        Sure, it’s informal. But everyone more or less gets the concept that “I saw it once” and “I noticed it was a thing” are not identical. And that one can’t intercede with every wrong key stroke. And that becoming aware of “a thing” involves some retroactive re-classification.

        That said, not every mistake is plausibly a one-off, and a manager can’t reasonably have a blanket rule of letting everything happen three times.

        Saving the client’s files to “documents” rather than the appropriate location and not noticing? Sure. That’s a moment of inattention.

        Being off by two digits when calculating percentages, and not noticing? Mention that one right away.

        It’s like the difference between, “turn signal is on when you’re not turning” and “steam coming from under the hood.”

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      The OP said is was a minor issue and I manage a team of 20 and I’d never say that something requiring a redo of large amounts of work, even for a tiny change, as a minor issue. That would be a big problem because it would require redrafting a lot of work.

      For truly minor issues, it takes about 3-4 times to be a pattern. And when I say minor, it is minor. It’s something I can fix in less than 30-60 seconds on my own. Basically, it’s faster for me to fix it that have the conversation about it. But after 3-4 times, I’ll bring it up. And no one is ever going to get disciplined for a minor issue.

      I’d say that for truly minor issues, I only have to address issues about 5% of the time. The rest of the time they correct themselves. No one wants a manager who is going to point out tiny errors 100% of the time.

      1. ValkyriePuppy*

        This! I had a job where I wouldn’t necessarily hear about truly minor things from my manger unless I’d done it 10 times (seriously, it was data entry, so I could have legitimately done something wrong 10 times and not known until someone on the receiving end was like wtf is this person doing and brought it to my attention) and more often then not it might take half an hour to fix, if that… eventually you just learn not to make those mistakes *shrug*

  2. Anon for this*

    My coworkers are like that! They feel stressed and blindsided when they hear about anything from our supervisor, even a change in policy that originates outside our department and is nothing to do with us! I almost think that the lack of consequences has everyone waiting on eggshells for the moment there are consequences. Because of course, we don’t have a lot of clarity about these things. I notice that the more we feel like a team, the less they feel this way.

    I second Alison’s advice to explain your comments, put them in context for them. And ask for their input. But also, do they feel like a team or are they competing for tasks, attenton, or something and these little fixes seem to put them in a “lower” position.

  3. BubbleTea*

    I’ve previously made a point of asking to be told the first time I make a mistake, rather than waiting for a pattern, because I have been blindsided in the past and much prefer to know where I stand. But I always acknowledge that this is unusual because most people don’t want every little error to be called out!

    1. hbc*

      Would it help to be told that the incidents don’t count as errors until you’re told about them? Because it’s a difficult job for a manager to reliably address every.single.error that might be occurring. When I see you writing a report with a purple pen, I might have more pressing issues than one purple report, especially if I have to figure out if there were no black pens available and it was better to have a purple record than a delayed one or none at all. Once I see the third or fourth purple report, it’s worth a check in.

      I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve had someone come to me in a “OMG, BubbleTea is writing with a purple pen, is this how we’re doing everything, it won’t scan properly and we’ll fail an audit and the company will crumble.” And I drop everything to deal with this emergency and you’re like, “Uh, this was for my own notes” or “That was the old purple pens that didn’t scan” or “This is a black pen in a purple cozy.” From the perspective of a manager, it’s often not even clear it’s a mistake or issue *until* there’s a pattern.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agreed, as a manager I just don’t have the bandwidth to give feedback on everything the first time, for exactly these reasons. (As well as believing that feedback on everything the first time has not-insignificant drawbacks.)

      2. LandDownUnder*

        That purple pen example is so specific I can’t help thinking there’s a story in it…

      3. RAM*

        The purple pen analogy is spot on! I’ve had employees who want feedback for every little thing and it’s honestly exhausting, and as you said – it takes a while to even understand if them writing in purple pen is actually even an issue that first time they do it.

        I’ve had other employees who know how to read between the lines, and they fix most of the issues before I even say anything — ie: they see me writing in a black pen and they change out their purple pen for black without me needing to mention that they need to do so. It would come across poorly to these employees to check-in with them and correct every little mistake – they’ll course-correct themselves, and if I see things that aren’t being corrected, I’ll give them a heads up so they watch out for it next time. And that’s all it is – a heads up that there’s something I’d like done a little differently. Once we’ve talked, and I still see purple reports, then it starts becoming a problem.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I have to laugh, because our whole department *had* to switch to purple pens Because Reasons…(and they scanned just fine, or so we were told by the head of the scanning department).

    2. lemon*

      yeah, i’d say for a lot of people, having every small error called out immediately feels a lot like being micromanaged.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I agree, that would drive me nuts, especially if I’m established in the job and likely to catch the error myself.

        if I’m new and still learning, yes, please let me know even small mistakes right away so I don’t create bad habits! If I’m fully up and running and something is quite clearly a one-off typo that doesn’t impact a deliverable or anything like that, though, there is no need to micromanage me like that. I’ll probably find and fix it on my own anyway.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup! I’m new at my job. I will never learn unless someone points out mistakes, even small ones. “Hey, AvonLady, don’t forget to include the name of the teapot processor in your order. I took care of it this time, and it’s no big deal, but that’s SOP.”

      My company’s culture is very helpful, and I appreciate that! I would hate to get 6 months down the road and learn that I could have been doing something differently, even if it’s a minor issue.

      Let’s say you’d been calling someone by the wrong name, purely by mistake, for a while. And they didn’t tell you until the 3rd time. You’d wish they’d told you sooner, right?

      1. I edit everything*

        When you’re new or in training, it’s different. I had a manager who would send things back to me to fix every little error, and that’s how I learned. But if, after three years, I happened to miss a margin once, I wouldn’t expect her to send it back unless it was happening consistently.

  4. THartwig*

    Removed. Yes, Inc. has a paywall because that’s how they pay me and other writers for our work. – Alison

  5. Rusty Shackelford*

    If I corrected every minor mistake the very first time it happened, morale would plummet and they would hate their jobs. Nobody wants that!

    It sounds like these couple of people DO want that.

    1. irene adler*

      Put me in that category too.

      I’d like to be told when I make an error -the first time I err- so I will know not to repeat it.

      If I do make a mistake, and then no one lets me know I’ve made a mistake, I’m likely to repeat it (don’t know any better). And I’ll get frustrated when I’m told -after I’ve repeated said mistake a few times- that I’m making mistakes.

      1. twocents*

        Really? You want manager intervention on /every/ typo, imperfect word choice, copy/paste mistake..? I don’t want my manager to say anything just because I missed a were/where.

        I’ve also (luckily) never had a manager that wants to manage to that level. It’s exhausting to have to babysit adults.

        1. JSPA*


          If I’m writing “thimk” for “think,” and “clojk” for “clock,” I actually do want to be reminded about the autocorrect or spell check. Why? Because if I were using spell check (and paying the slightest attention), or autocorrect, that wouldn’t happen.

          If I’m writing “C. Elegans” or “c. Elegans” instead of “C elegans,” and my writing involves writing about animals more than once in a blue moon, I want to be reminded about the capitalization rules for Genus (caps) and species (lowercase). Why? Because that’s a thing many people don’t know, or don’t remember correctly. The chances it’s a random typo are comparatively low.

          If it’s getting the client’s name wrong even once, I want to be reminded to check that. It’s bad to have wrong spellings of client names floating around.

          If it’s a wrong word that’s commonly used incorrectly or if it creates a setup for a dangerous misunderstanding (the classic being that inflammable and flammable mean the same thing), again, tell me the first time.

          If it’s almost certainly a wrong-word-due-to-typo-or-autocorrect? Or putting the pens one shelf down from where they should go? Nah.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Well at the same time, you’re asking the person supervising you to do a lot of mental detective work to figure out which is which, and then of course to take the time to come back to you with the corrections and build a whole interaction, in which (even if you think you don’t need it) they need to do the emotional work of phrasing things in a compassionate manner. At some point that’s asking them to do a ton of work for minimal work results, just to cushion you on your desire to be right. At some point, that’s up to you.

            And of course, since you’re talking about minute technical writing mistakes, there would be an exception if exacting, precise writing is the core of the job. Then, it’s not a minor mistake.

      2. Hemingway*

        Im picturing these almost like typos. You would just ignore but then if it occurs multiple times its not a typo, its because thats how they think it should be written. I mean, if someone tells someone something blatantly wrong, then yes, you can correct, but my assumption (which may be wrong), is that these are super minor that they really just look like mistakes and not something the person would continue doing.

    2. Flaxseed*

      I think it depends on the feedback. I’ve been in (toxic) jobs where they pointed out everything, even minor mistakes. Then they had long discussions analyzing “why did you do this?” “What made you do this?” type stuff that just dragged on and on. Notify people, fix it, and move on. (I think they had nothing else to do except focus on the small details, which sometimes was good, other times they failed to see the larger picture.)

    3. Annony*

      Yep. I wonder if maybe they are feeling like they can’t trust her feedback. If they turn something in and are told it is good only to be told later that there was actually a problem, it’s going to get to a point where they don’t know if they actually did it right or if the manager just doesn’t want to deal with giving real feedback. If it is truly minor I don’t think it would be demoralizing to point out.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      This is where I’m confused. Correcting an error isn’t the same as giving feedback. If there is an error, it needs to be fixed not ignored because it takes to much effort to point it out.
      I would be horrified if my manager saw an error and let me send out my work without notifying me. Actually, it’s a pretty maniacal move.
      I’m getting the feeling that the manager may not have the same dedication to accuracy as the team. Or the manager doesn’t completely understand the ramifications if an error goes uncorrected.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’m getting the feeling that people are interpreting what “error” means in very different ways. It works be useful if LW had given us an example.

      2. I edit everything*

        I’m imagining something like accidentally putting a widget in the doohicky box once, because you were distracted. OP moves the widget to the widget box, checks periodically, then when all the widgets are consistently in the correct box, stops worrying about it. If someone for some reason is regularly putting widgets in with doohickies, then that’s when she says, “Hey, keep your eyes open–a couple times I’ve found widgets in the wrong box.” And then you say, “Oh, sorry about that! I’ll pay closer attention.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          People are also accounting for all of these “errors” being physical work product. What about interactions and calls? What about meeting agendas? What about all the work that *occurs* rather than exists as a physical/digital item that can be corrected? Or, since OP states she’s concerned about quality control, what about assembly-line style batches that cannot be re-run, and aren’t bad enough to trash?

          Furthermore, they might not be WRONG, just less than ideal, and your job is to continuously shore up quality from multiple fronts to prevent the slide into unusable product, not to achieve *perfection.* You address Jane’s slightly substandard teapot painting, which was the biggest issue, and then you look around and see that the next biggest issue is Fergus’ handle attachment. Not wrong, but could be better. Meanwhile, junior assembly line person Clarissa is handing finished teapots to Wakeen for packaging the wrong way round, which you won’t even hear about until Wakeen decides that he’s annoyed by it, and in fact it’s NOT a problem except that it annoys Wakeen to have to turn them around, so even if you saw it you wouldn’t know it was a mistake.

    5. hbc*

      A couple are *saying* they want that. In practice, they probably make 15 imperfect choices in a week, and having their manager come to them three times a day, every day, week after to correct something completely minor (that may never, ever occur again if not pointed out) will not end well.

      In my experience, when people nitpick the delivery of minor corrections like this, you will never find the exact right way to deliver the correction. They’re reacting to the bad feeling of being corrected and trying to find some external cause for it. OP could call it out immediately, and it shouldn’t have been in front of an audience, or they would have found it themselves if given time. If she pulls them aside afterwards, they’re worried that it makes a bigger deal of it than warrants.

  6. staceyizme*

    It’s hard to resolve the kind of dissonance that expectations around feedback create. It sounds like there is some sort of a vacuum here in terms of communication. Either it’s real (and you should give better guidance ahead of, during and after assigned work) and/or it’s perceived (in which case it could be an issue of style, organizational culture or too much/ too many changes of all scales to manage to well. When you hear pain points, as a manager, step OUT of the “right”/”wrong” dichotomy and think about the context. See where it makes sense to change, where it makes sense to hold firm to the status quo and where things are coming up whose impact you haven’t accounted for. Also- if you’re resistant to supporting people in the way that they’ve asked, look into that. Maybe you’re defensive? Overstretched? You can’t support people well if you’re not well supported yourself. Sitting with yourself and your team in your respective roles and perspectives is part of the discernment process that’s needed prior to change.

    1. Sparrow*

      I’m also curious about OP’s comment that this is happening more and more. That makes me wonder if something has changed in the type of work, stakes of the work, style of feedback, etc. that’s making this more of an issue than it used to be. It may be worthwhile for OP to reflect on that.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My experience has been that my newer hires are more accustomed to receiving continuous feedback and are frustrated when there is any time delay or if they do not get feedback on every assignment. I think it’s a combination of the immediacy of response in a digital world but also less experience to be confident that they’re doing a good job when someone doesn’t tell them so (which I get! if you’re new, it’s very helpful to know, hey, this went well, or hey, next time can you do this differently or hey, we missed the boat here entirely, let’s regroup and figure it out).

        We do a segment of orientation on feedback, formal/informal, how/when it’s delivered, etc. to at least set base level expectations, and managers are obviously more involved in a new hire’s projects to assist with planning, clarity of instructions, and how best to accomplish it until there is comfort on both sides.

        1. Bloopmaster*

          Everything in this particular comment thread segment resonates. It does sound like there may have been a communications vacuum (at least when compared to expectations). Not hearing any feedback, or hearing only positive feedback, both make the worker assume that things are fine. So to later be told that this wasn’t entirely true can throw people for a loop. It sounds like none of these errors is particularly egregious–all the more reason to mention it early with the caveat that it’s not a huge deal. Suppose someone did make a silly mistake one time: there’s no reason to avoid gently bringing it up, because now they’re on the lookout for that particular error in future. OP says that people don’t get punished for mistakes, but then treats the act of correcting mistakes sound like a punishment. Just give kindly feedback. Agree with NotAnotherManager! that these employees may be particularly sensitive to not being corrected the first time if they are new to the job or relatively new to the working world. After all–a teacher grading your assignment isn’t going to wait for you to make the same mistake 2-3 times before correcting it, just in case it’s a honest mistake! No, you’re going to get marked off the first time.

          If workers are interested in doing good work, they’re open to hearing corrective feedback delivered professionally. Managers don’t have to manager their employees feelings. It sounds like maybe this OP was burned once by an employee who was not gracious about receiving feedback?

          One other thought—if you’ve waited a while (intentionally or unintentionally) before bringing a comment or correction to an employee why not phase it as “I just noticed that you’re doing X” or “Going forward, let’s do it Y way instead.” This will solve the immediate work issues (fixing the errors) while also potentially making it sound like you haven’t been sitting on a helpful correction for days/weeks/months.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            I mean, this may be the case, but it’s not what I get from what OP said. Possibly because I’ve been in a situation and this resonates with it.

            In my case, it was simply that the person was defensive and, in the moment, felt attacked by any feedback and wanted to turn it around on me. Since this was seasonal work, and therefore everyone was new, I took them at their word and started watching them more closely and correcting them on everything (being careful to only correct actual mistakes, not things I would just do differently). They continued to ask why I hadn’t told them before. Even when I explained I had literally just seen it and immediately told them. If they had been continuously doing it, I hadn’t noticed.

            I explained I was not blaming them, they weren’t in trouble, I was just trying to manage them and help them. They said they understood, and when not actively being corrected, one-on-one, they were a good worker and took group feedback well. But they kept doing the thing. It was a panic reaction, akin to crying at minor feedback. They were a teenager so I hope they grew out of it, but some adults also don’t know how to handle calm correction when it’s happening. Could be trauma-based, not sure.

            Once I understood, I went back to correcting when I saw fit. I had a whole team to oversee besides them, I couldn’t keep hovering for the whole season.

  7. Mockingjay*

    If there’s a pattern – the same mistakes are being made by different staff – that’s a process problem which can be fixed by establishing an SOP, a checklist, a check by you or another teammate, etc. This is the kind of thing you can address with the entire team, which takes the pressure off.

    You mentioned fixing things for quality control. QC is a very reasonable thing to ask from employees. Perhaps explaining ‘why’ QC is necessary would help fix things in people’s minds. “It’s important to validate the widget specs before sending it to Purchasing, so they don’t buy the wrong thing.” “Always proofread the report before submission; it is widely distributed among the company and clients, so it’s important that it reads well.” Again, QC is a process. Establishing one can take a lot of emotion out of correcting mistakes, because 1) everyone is held to the same standard, and 2) you can provide consistent training and tools.

  8. LinesInTheSand*

    If your employees are new to the workforce, they may not be comfortable with the idea that they can make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world. You might want to add a few sentences about how if you do see a mistake so severe that it can’t be repeated, you will address it immediately. I remember I spent a long time not understanding that management letting me make my own mistakes was not the same as management letting me repeatedly make career limiting errors. Management is fine with the first, and generally they’ll work the avoid the second. But I was young and didn’t know that.

    1. Smithy*

      In addition to being new to workforce, I also think that people carrying varying degrees of work PTSD can impact more senior staff having certain reactions to feedback.

      Those reactions may simply be leftovers to previous employers – in which case the response are managed based on individual employees. But it may also be that previous organizational management or even current senior management above the OP have created those responses.

  9. midhart90*

    The key is that you need to start off by making it unambiguously clear that they are not in trouble at the very beginning of the conversation. The tone should be “informational”, not “warning” or even “coaching.” There’s a good chance that the employee is genuinely unaware that there is an issue. Only when these informational conversations are repeatedly ignored is it really fair to go any further.

    Also, some people (myself included) do prefer to be notified sooner rather than later if there is a minor issue so that it can be promptly corrected. The phrase I like to use is “please let me know up-front so I can understand what kind of adjustment I need to make”.

    In short, assume good faith and assume no clue!

  10. Allypopx*

    I am definitely someone who prefers immediate feedback and frequent correction, but I know that’s a lot to ask from a manager and the reaction seems…disproportionate. I don’t remember if we ever got more context for this letter but I’d wonder if there are larger cultural tensions leading to that reaction. Or if it’s just a limited number of people.

  11. firecat*

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned, is I think it very much matters what the “minor” correction is.

    If it’s “Sr leader Tim hates powerpoints” and you let me present two previous powerpoints and I am halfway through my 3rd before you correct me I would be miffed.

    I’d also be irritated if it was a minor interpersonal thing that was alowwdd to go on for a few months because it happens so infrequently before it’s brought up. If you are then in the meeting saying 3 months ago you did this and you just did it again yesterday I would also feel defensive and blindsided. So it could be the way you are presenting it too makes it sound like you catalogues their bad behavior for awhile before addressing which doesn’t feel great.

  12. Heffalump*

    I wonder if the employees are defensive because of past experience with critical managers–or parents.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Or managers who tend to store up negative feedback for weeks or months at a time and then spring it on you as a surprise, and by the way you’re now on a PIP for all the things you were doing wrong that were never mentioned up until now. Not that I have any firsthand experience with this.

      1. AJ*

        Or you’re sitting in your annual performance review being told about all the things you did wrong but were never told about and the performance review is how raises are determined so you feel like you were sabotaged so they didn’t have to pay you more.

  13. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Yeah, I’d rather be told the first time “hey, this is an error” than be told “hey, this is an error, that you’ve done four times but we’ve been letting it go”
    If you would have told me the first time, the next three instances wouldn’t have happened.

    If this is a couple of specific people who are reacting like this, it’s possible they’re traumatized from having those “nice” bosses who go behind them and re-do “incorrect” work without ever saying anything and then get frustrated that “I have to go behind you and redo everything all the time!” A check-in with those individuals might be helpful.

  14. Mental Lentil*

    I once worked for a manager who had seen me do a routine task twice before. The third time I did it, she said “You know you’re doing it wrong. I really thought you would have figured it out by now.”

    Well, if you watch me do it and don’t say anything, I’m going to assume I’m doing it correctly. Should have said something the first time.

    1. KHB*

      That’s my thought too. If I do Thing X and don’t get corrected, I’m going to assume that Thing X is not actually a mistake.

      How you phrase the correction matters too. If there’s any hint of “you should have known this all along,” that’s going to get pushback.

      I’m reminded of when my employer all of a sudden decided that all of our saved emails were taking up too much disk space. Years ago, we’d been told specifically that we don’t have to delete anything ever if we don’t want to, so I’d come to rely on my “sent” folder as an archive of all the people I’d corresponded with and whether they wrote back or not. (I correspond with a lot of people.) So it was extremely annoying when the head of HR stood up in front of everyone and snottily lectured us on how some of us were “using, or rather misusing” the email system – and then sent a pointed email afterward to make clear that this was indeed about me.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Right? Why in the world did the manager think you’d continue doing it wrong on purpose?

        Pretty much any mistake can become a pattern if the person has no idea it’s a mistake. If it’s a mistake that would be a problem if repeated, don’t let that opportunity happen. Catch it and correct it the first time.

  15. Still Here*

    “If I corrected every minor mistake the very first time it happened, morale would plummet and they would hate their jobs”

    Completely disagree. What would kill morale is if you made a huge deal about it. Maybe wait for a second occurence if the mistake isn’t career limiting, other wise take 30 seconds to say something like, “Hey, I noticed the template you are using has last year’s numbers. Can you check to make sure you have the updated template next time?. Thanks!”

    That is it. Done.

    BTW, you can also find 30 seconds next time when they use the correct template to say, “Hey, good job on the presentation this week!”

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, +1,000 to this manner of handling it. You don’t have to make a big deal of it.

  16. insert pun here*

    I think it also matters what the context of the mistake is. For example, my job involves a couple of pretty strict, well documented, regimented processes. If I make a mistake during one of those, well, I probably think I’m doing it correctly! Let me know that I screwed up. Conversely, for things that are “squishier” — where there’s not necessarily one right way of doing something, or there might be a couple of ways to solve a problem, or it’s a complex interpersonal thing and requires a lot of negotiation, or the main thing that matters is the outcome, regardless of how I get there — those mistakes I’m more likely to catch on my own, or decide “hmmm, that was a bad way to handle that, now I know!” or whatever.

  17. Rayray*

    I wonder if before you, these people dealt with a toxic environment or a manager who made a huge deal out of mistakes so they’re now just on the defense whenever something happens.

    I worked in a position where I had to proof and correct other people’s work. I know the woman that was in the position before me and also working with me for the first few months was not very pleasant or patient about these mistakes even though it was literally her job to find them and get them corrected. I got yelled at a lot and had people really snippy and defensive whenever I’d bring something to their attention or talk to them to clarify something that they had worked on. I finally pieced it together because I was treated horribly and saw how toxic the office had been. With some people, there was no way I could word myself or approach it without them freaking out. Others learned over time that I had a different approach than what had been normal in the office. I think it’s a good idea to make it clear that you’re only bringing it up because you wanted to be sure they knew what was needed and to at the error isn’t critical and the reason why it goes through a second set of eyes is to make sure it’s done well.

  18. lebkin*

    If you are going to let earlier mistakes slide and wait for a pattern, you should follow that all the way through your feedback. Don’t bring up the prior mistakes beyond the most recent one. Focus on what needs to be different based on the most recent example.

    Don’t do this:
    “I’ve noticed for the past four monthly reports, you wrote Teapot Painting when you meant Teapot Glazing. I wanted to bring it up because I saw this pattern forming, and I wanted to correct it.”

    Do this:
    “In your report last month, you wrote Teapot Painting when you meant Teapot Glazing. That causes confusion in reading the report. Would you work on fixing that in future reports? Thank you.”

    1. SomebodyElse*

      With this my first inner question would be “Wait.. what changed?! I’ve been writing Teapot Painting now for 4 months? Why is it only wrong this month?”

      Better would be “I’ve noticed the past few months you’ve been writing Teapot Painting instead of Glazing. It’s not the biggest deal in the world as I’ve been able to correct it but going forward please return to using the term Painting”

  19. SomebodyElse*

    I’m curious about the commentators who say they would want to be made aware of an error every time it occurred. Have you really thought that through?

    You are taking from the perspective of “I’ve done X thing incorrect 3 times, I want to know the first time” So yes, I can understand that. I can also imagine the frequency of this is pretty rare.

    What I wonder is how many times you’ve made a mistake on something you know perfectly well how to do, but for whatever reason made a typo, hit send too soon on an email, missed the one box in the form that needed to be tic’d, etc. and you have no idea because your boss just noticed it and moved on knowing that you are capable and there aren’t any issues it was just a one time oversight? Good grief, no way would I want that!

    I mean the next letter would be “Dear Alison, I sort paperclips for a living and have a good track record. Lately my boss has been pointing out every mistake I make as soon as I do it. I mean, do they not know that from time to time a person accidently puts a medium paper clip in the wrong bin? It only happened once and they talked to me about it. How do I get them to understand that I’m human and make simple mistakes for no other reason than that?”

    1. Allypopx*

      Typo, no – depending on the context. Didn’t tick a box on a form, yeah probably. Especially if it’s something routine it’s much easier to correct before it becomes a habit/subconsciously removes itself from the autopilot process.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Even if you’ve tic’d the box correctly daily for a really long time?

        I mean, I asked the question, not going to argue with the answers I get. But I would hate that as an employee and as a manager.

        1. Allypopx*

          Does the box need to be tic’d? Is it a problem I missed it? Then yes.

          Commenter “Still Here” did a good example up page. It doesn’t have to be a sit-down meeting but yeah, correct me when you notice it, even if it’s just in passing.

          1. Mental Lentil*

            Sometimes a box that doesn’t get ticked means you get charged $500 instead of $50. Shipping classes, for instance.

        2. James*

          I once had remedial action waste that needed to be shipped of. Routine stuff for us, I’ve personally done a few hundred over the past few years. In this case a box wasn’t checked. Simple error–the person filling out the form made a small mistake.

          It took us three weeks of back-and-forth emails between the landfill, the state, and the client to fix this mistake. I don’t know the cost, but given the billing rate of the folks involved I’m guessing it was a few grand. And there’s also the loss of face with the client–we’re supposed to be the experts.

          I mean, you’re not wrong here. 99% of the time ticking the box wrong once isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t warrant someone calling you into their office. I’m just saying, there are times when it really is that important.

          1. twocents*

            Then I don’t think OP would have dismissed something that cost thousands and weeks of correction as “minor.”

            It’s weird how much people disbelieve that OP actually knows what is a minor error.

            1. James*

              I wasn’t responding to the OP, at least not directly. I was responding to SomebodyElse’s statement, by providing an example where SmebodyElse’s proposed scenario was in fact a significant issue.

              I agree that the OP will know what’s a minor issue and what isn’t. As I said, 99% of the time a minor error is going to be, well, minor. And I’m with SomebodyElse here–I have had managers that point out every little mistake, and I hated it. But there is that 1% to consider, and I know that the nit-picking I endured made me better at my job.

    2. Grapey*

      “What I wonder is how many times you’ve made a mistake on something you know perfectly well how to do”

      Depends on how much work it causes people downstream. Reminds me of that recent AAM letter where someone was the public facing scapegoat for typos and LW was asking if they should speak up. If my forgetting to tick a box means that some process downstream skips some laborious process, then yes I would like/expect to be told every time.

      Maybe paperclip sorter doesn’t realize that one medium clip jammed up the small-clip boxing machinery, which prevented dozens of orders from being fulfilled while the machine was down for three hours waiting for the (expensive) technician to show up.

    3. Scarlett*

      Yes, of course I would want to be told. Assuming it is something you will bring up if I repeat the mistake, then I want to know ASAP, as I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me. If you’re going to ignore it every time, and it won’t ever be worth bringing it up, then don’t bother. But don’t let me miss ticking the box four times before you tell me. That just means I screw up way more than I needed to! And now I feel four times as bad.

      1. James*

        “… I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me.”

        Here is the crux of the issue, isn’t it? Certain mistakes–like a typo–I CAN fix without someone pointing it out to me. Other mistakes–like recording dissolved oxygen in percent instead of in milligrams per liter–involve a conceptual error on my part and require some outside assistance to even recognize.

        Should my documents have typos? No, of course not. Products going to the client should be perfect. But I’m not a robot, and distractions–even work-related ones–happen. And if you’re going to call attention to a single typo in a 500 page document, that’s just being petty; the reason we have QC procedures is because anyone not a professional editor is going to have such errors from time to time.

        Further, if it’s once it’s obvious that I caught the mistake the other times and corrected it. If it’s repeated, that means I didn’t catch the mistake and could use some outside help. Again, it’s the difference between a simple mistake in presenting the information, and a conceptual error on my part.

    4. twocents*

      This. For all the “I’d never make the mistake if I’d known!!” like yes you would have, because a 100% accuracy rate on everything is unreasonable.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Thanks, this is what I was getting at and questioning. Half the comments in here were “Maybe they had a super micromanager boss who would point out the littlest error and that is why these employees are defensive” and the other half are “OMG, Yes point out absolutely everything I do wrong as soon as I do no exceptions!”

        lol… It just really struck me as odd :)

        1. Eliza*

          I think people are imagining very different work situations. I’m in a work environment where it’s simply not realistic for anyone to produce completely error-free work (e.g. we have to edit large documents under tight deadlines), so it only makes sense to point out errors if somebody is making an unusually large number or if there’s a pattern to them. I imagine there are other environments where error-free work is the norm and that’s the perspective that some people are coming from.

          1. Eliza*

            To give a clearer idea of the kind of thing we deal with, it’s very normal for a document to contain several thousand errors when originally written. Some are typos, some are grammatical errors, some are small violations of house style. All of those errors are logged as the editor and proofreader find and fix them, but there’s no way we’d ever sit the writer down and go through every single issue, and it’s expected that even after proofreading a few things will slip through. If the OP’s work is of a similar nature, then pointing out errors the first time they arise just isn’t a reasonable thing to ask for.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      After working for so many decades, Yeah, I have really thought it through.
      Tell me the first time you see it.

      I am so tired of bosses who play the “guess what I want you to do here” game. I don’t wanna guess. Tell me what you need and I will do it.
      I had one boss who would sit with us once a year for a review. He would bring up some petty thing from 10 months early that only happened one time. And it would be on my review. This is why people leave, right here. We had discussed this small thing in the moment, I quickly agreed to change course in the future and correct the other small problem. Did I mention this was small? He led me to believe the issue was over. Nope. Not really. There it was on my annual review. Meanwhile NO mention of the times I fixed Big Problems A, B and C. It was all about that tiny mistake 10 months ago.
      I would get knots in my stomach at review time, wondering what tiny insignificant thing he would bring up. It did not help that it was a male dominated company and I am a woman.
      This was a boss who genuinely did not understand what reviews were for. Three quarters of the review was all about what the company would be doing in the upcoming year. So much for talking about my work efforts. I concluded that I did not work with the boss often enough and he had no idea what I was doing.

      1. Allonge*

        That is terribe management. But not every manager who does not go to you every single time you make a mistake is doing that, you know that, right?

        Also, even good managers are not therapists.

    6. Shahiri*

      It’s an interesting question and I think it really does depend on a combination of personal preference and the tone of the correction. Personally, I skew much more to the “tell me every time” side than the “look at my track record and only tell me if you think it’s a pattern” side. I know the trade off of “tell me every time” is that some number of times either I will already know and/or the error is the kind of one-off accident that just happens sometimes and doesn’t indicate I need to change any of my existing error-control processes. I still want to be told though because, assuming the error-notification is appropriately scaled to the severity of the error (i.e. a brief/low-key “heads up, X was wrong in Y way on that last batch of widgets you sent” for a minor error), that gives me a chance to check that, if I did know about the issue already, I am on the same page as my boss about how big a deal (or not) it is and if I didn’t know about it, now I do and can make my own assessment of if the error is likely to reoccur or not given my current process. Also, I know that my personal tolerance for the annoyance of periodically being told something I already know is much higher than my tolerance of the distress I feel at finding out I’ve been making an easily fixable error repeatedly just because no one told me.

      Tangentially related, my older sibling is firmly on the other side of this (would rather figure it out themselves than be told) and it caused my mom a fair bit of grief growing up when she would ask one of us to do something that had to be done by a particular time. Me, I was happy to have her check in on task progress because if all was well I could say so happily, and if all was not well (I’d forgotten about the task or gotten stuck on some part of the execution) then I had an easy opening to ask for help/get started before the task was late. My sibling? Not so much. They felt that being checked in on meant they weren’t trusted to complete the task unsupervised when they should have been, cue hurt feelings all around. So on the one hand our mom would have me, apologizing for not starting a task soon enough/doing it wrong and asking for reminders/check ins next time so it wouldn’t happen again and on the other hand she had my sibling getting the afore mentioned checks and being upset and asking not to have them next time. (For the record, I don’t actually recall if either my sibling or I was more or less reliable (and therefore more or less needful of reminding) than the other.)

  20. Quill*

    OP, you need a standard operating procedure.

    Anything that can be standardized? Do so. It will free up your bandwidth so that mistakes made by the whole team can be addressed, and that workers don’t feel that every small, possibly independent judgement worthy decision that they make is scrutinized.

    Signed, a recovering lab tech.

  21. Paula*

    It is possible that this response has more to do with these employees’ personalities than anything you are doing in a work context. I have a close family member who uses that wording all the time when he is told something he doesn’t like, in a personal conversation. It is a way to shift the “blame” back to you.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I suspect that these particular employees would find fault in the delivery of the correction no matter what the LW does.

    2. whistle*

      This is what I think is going on. I have counseled hundreds of employees and run into this type of response (“Why didn’t you tell me sooner”, etc.) many times. Certain employees who say this when they first get the feedback will circle back around to it after I go over the specific improvement we want to see. It seems to be a defense mechanism, and, in more extreme cases, a way to absolve themselves of their mistakes. I find that the ones who keep coming back to this point are less likely to end up improving, while the ones who let it go after I explain the timing of the feedback are more likely to end up improving in the area of concern.

      It’s like the common sitcom trope where someone gives someone bad news, and the receiver of the news says, “When were you going to tell me?”

    3. Robin Ellacott*

      I thought the same. I have encountered some people at work whose response to any correction is a criticism of the way they were told, no matter how or when that was done. You can handle their request in good faith and note/follow their preference if it’s reasonable, but it doesn’t change the need for feedback to happen.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Why not just answer the question?
      “I did not tell you before now because [it wasn’t that critical; I was tied up with Big Project; the building burned down and it did not seem important atm; whatever].

      Alternatively, a boss could say “This is how this type of thing is handled here. You can expected periodic sit downs where we fine tune what you are doing.”

      But honestly, if it’s important enough to sit down and talk about it, then no matter what you say the employee is going to be convinced it’s a bfd. Because that is what the boss is telegraphing when the boss sits down to discuss things.

  22. Noncompliance Officer*

    How long has the manager been there, and how long have the employees been there? Sometimes a company has had a very punitive or vindictive culture towards mistakes and long-time employees become very defensive or sensitive about it. We have some long time employees who are still like this, despite a big culture change in our organization over the last ten years.

    It could also be newer employees who lack confidence and are nervous about making mistakes. In that case this may eventually decline.

  23. RosyGlasses*

    I just completed a course (with LifeLabs Learning – shout out to their great management courses!) on Effective Feedback. One item the facilitator brought up that we are going to be implementing slowly across the teams is a “see something, say something”. The first time a behavior happens (email is missing clear items, setup didn’t happen correctly etc), address it and help support the employee to success. She mentioned that often times – if you wait until the second or third time, the first thing the employee will think is – but there is this one time I *didn’t* do that – instead of actually hearing the crux of the feedback.

    In my own reflections, I realized that this was something I had defaulted to, both in my own behavior in receiving critical feedback, and in waiting too long to address something.

    All in all – it was a pretty fantastic course and I’m interested to see how incremental shifts in how we address feedback in our company culture will occur.

  24. Purely Allegorical*

    I wonder if this is a case where Manager has kept some feedback to themself for a bit, and saves it up for a conversation. Something like, the formatting on the weekly report has been wrong — but it’s easier for Manager to just fix it themself and send on, which is what they’ve been doing. So then eventually Manager sits down with Direct Report and says “Hey you’ve really been inconsistent about the formatting on the weekly report and I need that to stop”, but Direct Report feels blindsided.

    If this is what’s happening, perhaps Manager should shift to requesting corrections on a more casual basis the first time they happen — e.g., “Direct Report, the formatting is off on this report, can you correct in XYZ ways and send back to me” — rather than making it a big sit-down.

  25. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I’m preparing to take over my team. This is something I’m trying to get into my head before I officially take on the role. (I’ve been the overextended and senior team member with most of the answers up until now, so my “requirement” to provide feedback has been more of the “hey I’m overhearing this and I think I need to nip it in the bud so let me just correct your sails a bit” level.)

    The pandemic meant that my team has been scattered onto other assignments, and I’ll be basically retraining staff on an entire process. Half of the team will be fine. The other half will need a refreshed process document and learning nearly from scratch.

    I’m spending a certain amount of my pre-planning brain space thinking about how detailed I can make the procedures so that I can lean on the flow charts and checklists. And I’m terrified that I’ll forget about the step by step because I tend to speak in shorthand about big lumps of the steps.

    I suspect I’ll have to do the See Something Say Something a lot. The challenge will be to create a process where the checks and balances are a perfectly normal part of the steps, and don’t feel punitive. I think it’ll be way better that way (and substantially better than the way I was trained!).

  26. Insert Clever Name Here*

    Alison, thought you’d like to know I’m getting the 404 error that some people were getting last week when trying to get the Inc. article.

  27. Anonymal*

    Fascinating letter. I’m definitely a person who prefers to be corrected right away, and have been successful in past jobs that were structure with that immediate casual feedback. I also understand the argument presented here that there should be some waiting to see if there is a pattern, and then raise it (since no one is perfect 100% of the time). I wonder if the tone and context of feedback, and type of task, matters?

    For example, I recently received feedback from a manager that was delivered in a manner of “me and several of my senior colleagues over the past 5 years have been having multiple conversations about how poor you are at X task. I won’t tell you the specifics of any of these conversations, but you really need to shape up” which…did leave me feeling off-center and blindsided. But it’s also a detail-oriented task that a mistake on any individual day could just be due to a lack of sleep, off day, etc so I can understand waiting to raise it until it was a pattern. I’m just struggling to reconcile how crummy I felt in that context/conversation with the notion here that it’s reasonable to wait to give feedback, and wondering in retrospect if it was unreasonable for me to expect this to have been raised earlier in a more actionable way.

    1. Shahiri*

      I think depends on how major the issue(s) caused by the error and if the person making the error has any way to see the pattern for themselves. Because yeah, it does suck to be told “hey, you’ve been doing this wrong for a while now” where the tone/context of the conversation has a strong subtext of “we thought you’d have figured out this was a problem by now but I guess not so now we have to talk about it.” I think the only way to bring up a pattern after the fact and not have it feel crummy like that is to be clear about the context and not assume the person “ought” to have seen it for themselves if they don’t have access to the necessary metrics to do so (and/or don’t know they should be keeping an eye on them and what’s considered normal).

  28. CanadianGal*

    I actually have a preference of being told right away, and letting people know right away.
    I mean when you say an error, it strikes me as something that needs to be addressed, and not just slide. For example, I see John thinks 2 plus 2 is 5, it’s probably just a mistake and I will let it go and see if he makes that mistake again? Is it a scenario where a mistake was made, the employee caught it, or someone else noticed it and it was fixed? Short of work etiquette questions, and even then, I can’t quite understand why let things go unaddressed. Then the person feels embarrassed they made that mistake 3 times!
    It can also be less confrontational to say, oops, 2 plus 2 is actually 4, than to say, I noticed 6 months ago you indicated it was 5, and then three months ago, and then again last week. I would like to clarify with you that 2 plus 2 is actually 4.
    In my personal situation, I have a supervisor who goes mining for conflict in a peaceful environment. And she saves these nuggets that she finds, and when she feels that you wronged her (there is always a causal connection), she would blind side you in a one on one meeting that is supposed to be on something else with these nuggets from 3 or 6 months ago. And unprepared you can’t really respond because you aren’t expecting it. Also, at times the relationship between her examples are not even clear what the common issue is supposed to be. When this happens now, I always say thanks for letting me know, and I will get back to her with any points of clarification when I review my notes. Which I do. So, for me, I like constructive feedback. I am also the one after a mistake is pointed out, to explicitly state so going forward I will do this, this and this and I will ask if there anything else that I should do.
    I am not saying that my situation is the situation here, but because of my experience for me, tell me now, not is 6 months.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not a fan of the whole concept, “see if the employee figures it out and fixes it.” But I am not a fan of passive management either.

      This is the employee that goes home and tells his family and friends, “My boss lets me make repeated mistakes and does not tell me. I don’t think they want me there. I feel like I am being set up to fail.”

  29. Canadian Girl*

    I’m in camp see a pattern on minor things before bringing them up. But I also use the hey I noticed you did this make sure it’s done this way instead rather then mentioning a bunch of previous instances. I don’t want every single error I make corrected. If your picking teapot orders all day long and you pick 1 teapot once instead of a case of 10 teapots out of 100 orders it happens nobody is perfect. If you always picking 1 teapot instead of a case of teapots all the time then that’s an issue people need to be told about. I think that’s where the minor kind of stuff comes in. I don’t want to know every time I pick something wrong when I’ve picked 300 things in a day but if I’m picking the same thing wrong 2 or 3 times then I probably don’t understand what I should be picking.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      For repetitive tasks especially, when I trained part of the training included double checks. If I could figure out a clever cross check, I’d show the trainee. Most people want to do it right the first time and most good employees are happy when they are shown methods to cross check their own work.

      The problem with repetitive tasks is that it’s easy for the brain to fall asleep but the body keeps working. BTDT. This is why a system of double checks or cross checks is so valuable.

    2. londonedit*

      I think there’s a difference between a boss pointing out every single error someone makes, and pointing out a mistake in process or labelling or something that could cause problems later down the line. I don’t want my boss to point out every typo I make in an email, or every time I use the wrong word in a meeting, but I do want them to give me a heads-up if I’ve entered data in the wrong place on the database, or I’ve been saving files in the wrong location, or whatever. I don’t want to keep on doing that for weeks or months and then all of a sudden be told ‘Oh yeah, you keep doing that wrong’. That’s the sort of thing that needs a quick ‘Oh – I noticed you saved the new Teapot Firing document in the Teapot Glazing folder. I’ve moved it, but can you make sure it goes in Glazing from now on?’ Don’t let me save it in Glazing three times before you tell me I’ve been doing it wrong.

  30. spitballing here*

    Is it possible there is a difference in identities at play here? For example, a woman manager leading a team of mostly men in a man-dominated field or company? Or a non-white manager leading a team of mostly white people? Similar to Paula’s “shifting blame” comment – this could be leading to the employees finding fault with how the manager gives feedback. Just spitballing here, agree with others that if it just a few (2-3) employees who have this issue then their personalities are different than the rest. BUT if that’s not the case, what else could it be? This is one option.

  31. Des*

    > If I corrected every minor mistake the very first time it happened, morale would plummet and they would hate their jobs.

    I’d say it depends. Yes, micromanaging bad, but if it’s something like “hey, you’re using the wrong id here, it should be X instead of Y” and that saves them having to completely redo the whole thing from scratch losing lots of time spent, then maybe knowing it right away is better. It’s a judgement call.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The nature of work really does matter. But approach matters also.
      There were times where it was actually my fault because I neglected to mention to do x. So I would clearly state that and apologize. If possible I would help backtrack and fix it.
      But the one thing I did was follow up quickly. I did not leave a person with something new for days or even weeks and then go back to correct their work. If I trained someone I would check in periodically as appropriate.
      And it was definitely a two way conversation. I think that was important that they knew it was an opportunity to ask questions. Some times they had suggestions that actually reduced errors, I loved that and I would let them know suggestions were always welcome. Their ability to offer suggestions made it more of a conversation and less of a lecture from me.

  32. Batgirl*

    I wonder if the employees are asking for upfront instructions pre-task rather than corrections mid-task. It can be pretty irritating to only be told something is an expectation or standard after the fact. It’s worth asking follow up questions about how they would have preferred the guidance to happen.

  33. Working Rachel*

    In my experience, this is a really common response to feedback or to enforcing boundaries–I have a lot of conversations along the lines of “this policy we told you about is now going to result in consequences” with the response of “but you didn’t tell me/you told me but I thought it was okay because of [X neutral response you had].” It’s so common I’m shocked no one else has mentioned that it’s common. Maybe it’s cultural or gender-based? I’m a white middle-class woman from the Midwest. When I’ve encountered it, it’s a defensive gesture–annoying but nothing to get concerned about, and certainly not a reason to change your behavior. If it’s a repeated thing from the same employees, I’d actually manage them about it and try to train them out of it, since it is indeed defensive in a way that makes people giving feedback question themselves.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      And there were times where they were right.

      I did actually tell them x was okay and I had to now inform them that x was not okay. Usually I explained why the change. If I was misunderstanding the expectation, then I simply said that I had misunderstood and therefore gave them the wrong information- it was on me. “But from now on we will do blah, blah, blah.”

      One place I worked the specifications changed almost daily. I’d write it out, leave samples, or other type of thing to make sure they stayed on course in spite of the chronic changes. Additionally, I was very clear that the circumstances were unusual as we did not usually have so many (fn) changes.

      But I do agree that my priorities in the conversation would shift from the immediate matter to how to handle feed back and how to know when it’s a big deal and when it’s not. I never heard to much of that but I think it could be in part because I realized I had done something or failed to do something and I needed to change me.

  34. Budgieman*

    Consider the difference between:
    I did bad, but you didn’t tell me I did bad….therefore any bad after the first time is your fault for not correcting me.
    I did bad, but you didn’t tell me I did bad… I wish I had known, so I could have corrected earlier.
    It all depends on the tone, and that becomes the key difference between them blameshifting, vs acknowledging and correcting.

  35. DiscoCat*

    I’m wondering why the employee’s wish to have been informed sooner is seen as defensiveness. I’m in a similar situation: We got feedback during a standing team meeting with our boss that he and his deputy were absolutely outraged and unhappy about another department’s butchered presentation of my team’s input for a new project, apparently talks were had. I am a team coordinator and feel responsible for the quality management for material that we put out- even if it goes though the hands of the other department to the client. I feel I should have been asked and involved at the stage where concerns were raised that were weren’t involved enough even before the presentation, let alone the aftermath.

  36. Lynn Marie*

    Not mentioning the errors IS a type of feedback. By not mentioning the errors, you’ve been tacitly informing them that they’re doing it right. Then suddenly you change the feedback from positive to negative for the same behavior. It’s not that they’re reacting to the negative feedback; it’s that you are changing the feedback from positive to negative with no warning.

  37. Workfromhome*

    Often when people complain that you are not meeting their expectation (feed back is not fast enough) its because the expectations are not clear. Both sides need to have a clear understanding of when feedback will come. That is not to say that every person gets to decide how you as a manger interact with them. Just because A likes feedback once a day and B wants it once a week and C doesn’t want any doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do. You as the manger get to hear their preferences but ultimately do what works best for you (and if you can accommodate them that’s a bonus).

    The complaints seem to imply they feel they are “blindsided” because they expect feedback after the first mistake but it may not come until after 2 3 or even more. So one tactic that might help is to make it clear to everyone (it can be in one on ones it doesn’t have to be a posted policy). “I want to be clear with everyone how I feel the best way to deal with errors works. If its minor I want to give you time to discover it on your own and correct it. I do this too sometimes. Type 05 when I meant 50 and then check an hour later realize my mistake and correct it. If its something minor but enough it might be a pattern i’ll bring it up in our weekly one on one so that you can head it off from happening again. I promise that if something major is discovered it will be brought to your attention asap”.

    Now everyone knows. Some may still want it “faster” but they can stop complaining about it because they know its coming during their 1 on 1 and that they can feel secure that minor stuff they correct on their own isn’t a big deal. It is important to reinforce that. If there was an error that they caught on their own and corrected with no consequence don’t harp on it. After all they fixed it :-)

  38. What*

    I wonder if the first time you’re catching it isn’t the first time they did it. So by the second or third time when you say something, it actually is a habit.

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