Making small changes at work can change your entire career, be it for the better or worse. While it’s easy to take the easy way out, at CLEO, we believe in initiating the change, even when it comes to challenging authority or bucking the trend, and our CLEO Change Makers have proven us right.

It’s hard to point out mistakes at work without fearing you might be hated on or worse, be accused of insubordination. Even when it comes to your peers, simply saying “You’re wrong” could result in a catfight. Here’s how to play your cards right.

If she’s your boss
Start by acknowledging her authority, so she knows you respect her position. Also, make sure you are in a private place – you’ll embarrass her otherwise. Use phrases such as “I see your point in doing things this way, but have you considered…?” and “I’d like to share my thoughts on…” The key here is to discuss things with her, instead of blatantly pointing out that she’s wrong.
If she insists she’s right: …and the matter is too important to ignore, emphasise that you are raising the issue for her benefit. Most bosses will want to know if they have made, or are about to make, a glaring mistake, especially if there will be serious consequences for the company.

If she is your peer
Be direct and point out what the mistake is. Make it clear that your intention is to help her, not criticize her. Avoid phrases such as “No offence, but…” and “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way…” which may make her even more defensive of her actions. Instead, say something like this: “The figures in this report are wrong and I wanted to inform you before it goes to our manager.”
If she insists she’s right: …the best thing to do is to agree to disagree; after all, you’ve done your best to point out her mistake. However, if the mistake concerns a big project, suggest getting a third opinion from other co-workers or your boss. If she refuses, politely tell her that you’re uncomfortable with leaving the issue unresolved and will be talking to your boss about it.

If she’s your subordinate
Focus on solving the problem and correcting her error. Tell her what’s wrong and ask for her opinion on how to correct it. This (a situation whereby there’s a problem) is a good chance for you to show leadership and groom your subordinate.
If she insists she’s right: …you will need to take a step-by-step approach to help her understand where she has gone wrong. Ask her to explain why things should be done her way, then highlight why things should be done differently. Make reference to the company’s goals and values, so she doesn’t feel like you’re picking on her.

Expert source: Jaya Dass, director of human resources, business support and life sciences at Randstad Singapore

Image: Sergey Nivens / 123RF.com
Text: Aretha Loh / Her World August 2015
Additional text: Hidayah Idris

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