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Do We Need to Correct Others?

There’s an old saying that goes: “There is more than one way to skin a cat!’

And indeed, there are many ways to do anything! Yet there are some who think that their way is the ONLY way and are quick to correct their employee, spouse or friend in front of others. I believe this is self-defeating as it not only embarrasses the person being corrected, but it erodes their trust in you.

As a businessman, I have learned to never correct an employee in front of a customer. This type of behavior can be detrimental to your business in so many ways. To that customer, your employee is no longer a knowledgeable representative of your company that can be trusted to handle their business. And secondly, your employee will lose trust in you. Some leaders incorrectly assume that correcting an employee in public will motivate them to perform better. However, typically the result is the exact opposite. More often than not, an employee who is embarrassed by their employer loses motivation and becomes less of a team player. Even more troubling, the rest of the staff will also lose trust in the employer, and morale declines.

In my own life, I have felt the sting of being corrected in front of others. Years ago, I had a business partner who would invariably come to a job site after I had set up a project and change my plan drastically. Rather than let the plan I had laid out be implemented, he thought his way was better; possibly thinking it was the ONLY way! To our staff, it made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing. All in all - both plans would have worked. But, it evidently was important to my partner that his way was the way things should be done. While I respected his many years of accomplishments, his corrective behavior made me feel that my thoughts and actions were of little or no value. That loss of trust and the total lack of synergy led to my leaving the partnership.

But as often happens with bad experiences, this became a valuable life lesson.

As my son became more and more involved in my business, I sometimes found myself about to tell him exactly how things needed to be done! But the lesson would come to mind, I would let go of my ego and let Ben, Jr. implement his plan. Again, there were times early on, that I was challenged not to step in and question his plan. But I knew if he was to grow and reach his potential, I needed to let him evolve. As I watched the positive growth of our companies, I was reminded that there is more than one way to skin a cat!

But corrective behavior isn’t just a business issue.

Personally, correcting a loved-one in front of others is equally detrimental. There is shame and humiliation that occurs when another adult (especially a spouse) “calls you out” in front of others and corrects what you have said. It is important to understand that very few people want to be around this behavior. If your grown children come home less often, if friends call less and less, if other couples don’t want to go out with you and your partner anymore, it may be that this “correction behavior” is making others uncomfortable.

Why do people feel they need to correct others? Psychologists say that people do this because they are insecure in the situation that they are in. If they are out with friends or family and are feeling insecure, they will make off handed comments and correct spouses as a way to assert themselves in order to feel better.

I believe that in all instances, business or personal, correcting someone should be done privately and with respect. And when you wait a moment or two to talk with someone privately, you may actually find that you don’t need to correct them at all. Maybe you’ll realize that when your spouse said you lived in New York until June of 1971 but you really lived there until July of 1971 doesn’t really need correction.

I believe that corrective behavior in public can be the corrosion that will bring down all you’ve built and block out what you really desire. Whereas, harmony, trust and respect are tremendous building blocks to all successful relationships and organizations.

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