No one is perfect, and as long as people work, there will be behavioral errors, and situations that need correcting.

There is a lot of room for improvement in the way bosses, coworkers, and friends handle these situations.

One of the most popular responses to correcting behavior is to ignore it and hope that it goes away. This doesn't work very often. In my experience, the times that I use that approach, the unaddressed behavior came back twice as severe, and caused more

The only way we can hope for continued improvement is to provide feedback. And the most effective feedback is feedback that is actually heard and understood.

One method of providing feedback is to lose your cool, and angrily threaten, "don't ever do that again!" While it is heard, the rationale for it is most likely passed over. That is a classic case of motivation by fear. Doesn’t work well…

When you are hoping to bring about a change in behavior, the more the person understands and agrees with the change, the more likely the change of behavior will stick. And even though the error or behavior may have been annoying or create anger, your best hope is to take a proactive approach to promoting the right behavior.

The frame of mind that can work very well is for you to believe that the person can and will make the change. Whether you believe someone can do it, or not, they will have a tendency to fulfill your expectation. Many times, our attitudes towards others can be a self fulfilling prophecy. So, the first suggestion is for you to believe that the person is capable of doing the task successfully.

This belief can form the base for productive discussions about behaviors. No one likes to be called on the carpet by a boss; rather, if they feel that the boss is coaching them, and helping them, there is a greater chance that they will respond positively.

So, when initiating a corrective discussion, it is important to build rapport at the outset. This builds trust, and minimizes tension. Taking a moment to discuss the weather, the family, or something interesting that happened at work can go a long way to a stressless winning attitude of working together.

Once that is achieved, it is important to very clearly explain what needs to be corrected and why. Having an example is helpful. It is important to describe what the successful handling of the task will look like. Once both parties have agreed, it is time to move on.

Most times, there involves a need to correct the situation. Whether something is broken or someone needs to be called, it is important to fix what resulted from the less than perfect behavior. It is at this point that I challenge the person conducting the discussion to make sure that the person who made the error is the one correcting the situation. It is very helpful to ask for clearly defined steps as to how this will be done, and with a timetable.

The most helpful part of this discussion is what comes next. Reassuring the person, and confirming belief that the person can do this task, or do this job, will energize the improved behavior. This is a step that should not be missed.

Cautionary note: There are some times when people just don't get it. This is where I apply the "rule of three." That means that after having three similar conversations, on similar errors, it is time to take formal action, whether that means removing the person from the situation or starting disciplinary procedures. Fortunately, this does not have to happen often.

You can't avoid correcting behavior; we are all human, and imperfect. The way you deal with it will have a direct impact on your results, and how the person buys into changing. The most important of all these points is the first -- by believing in people, you will get the best out of them!

Author's Bio: 

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of a division of The Egan Group, Inc., a Reading, PA based professional coaching firm. She is a certified workplace productivity coach and professional speaker, and can be reached at or visit