Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Scatter Gun Correction

Focus on the person who needs correction rather than correcting everyone whether they need it or not. Supervisor Paul Sanderson sent out three corrective emails in a week, to all sixteen employees on his shift.  He sent one to everyone because he saw two employees leaving trash in the break room.  The second was sent because he noticed one employee not following procedures on a task. The third email was sent because Paul found a door unlocked and he didn’t know who did it.

  • Employees who had been performing and behaving correctly felt as though they were being chided unfairly.  They knew who the real culprits were and they  knew Paul knew. They wondered why Paul didn’t just gutsy up and deal with the problem.
  • The employees who had not been doing the right thing assumed they weren’t the only ones cutting corners, since everyone got an email.
  • The employee who left the door unlocked figured he got by with it this time.

Scatter gun correction is nearly always ineffective and creates frustration and hostility.  Even if you hit the target with one or two employees you can alienate others. The biggest concern is that it makes you seem unable to investigate a problem or afraid to deal with it directly.

Take the time to analyze a situation, find out who is involved and what can be done about it, and do effective supervisory work to correct or redirect the appropriate employee and solve the problem. If you think everyone needs to be reminded, at least also speak to the person who specifically was in error this time.  Don’t depend upon him or her getting the hint in your scatter gun correction.

The next time you are considering a scatter gun comment at a staff meeting or briefing, or you’re thinking about a scatter gun corrective email, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know a specific person who is making this mistake or doing this thing? If so, talk to that person face to face.
  • Is there a better way to deal with this than in writing? Often a private word with an employee will accomplish much more. It will also allow you to build a more personal relationship.
  • Am I considering the scatter gun email to avoid the discomfort of talking to someone directly?  Being a supervisor can be uncomfortable, but that is your issue–and one that will improve with experience.  Don’t make employees pay the price for your lack of comfort by sending them all a corrective email or giving them a corrective lecture, or even a corrective reminder, about something they haven’t done.

An active supervisor who observes the work environment, the work product and employees, will see things that should be commended and things that need to be corrected. The employee who is doing good work should be thanked personally. The employee who needs to change performance or behavior should be corrected personally.

Don’t scatter your efforts. Focus on the correct person and demonstrate knowledge about what is going on at work, as well as on demonstrating fairness and self-confidence.

March 9th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Supervision and Management | 7 comments