How to correct people at work without sounding like a jerk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 15, 2019

How to correct people at work without sounding like a jerk

Walking the thin line between constructive and condescending criticism

In a professional setting, it’s very important to correct others in a proper manner so that you don’t come across as a rude co-worker or a condescending know-it-all. There’s an art to being able to get your point across and getting the work done, without hurting other people’s sentiments. This should be done, not just because you’re a good human being, but also because coming across as discourteous can often be quite counterproductive. Hence in order for your feedback to be effective, try and follow the following tips to coat your otherwise uncouth opinion with just the right amount of sugar.

Make it private

Calling someone out in public for a mistake they made makes the entire thing more confrontational than it has to be. They’re more likely to feel attacked or embarrassed, and have an emotional reaction, which makes it more difficult for them to focus on your suggestions.

Start off right

While you shouldn’t beat around the bush, direct criticism isn’t always well received. The goal is to get the other person to focus on the solution and not the mistake itself. Ease into the mistake and ways it can be worked on. Instead of blurting out ‘You’re wrong’, talk about aspects they did a good job on first, before moving onto the parts that need to be corrected.

Know when to correct

Make sure what you’re correcting is an actual error and not a personal preference or opinion. It’s best to have justifications to support your claim. For example, telling a co-worker that you faced a similar issue a while ago and this is how you fixed it makes it look like you’re actually trying to help and not trying to make them look incompetent.

However, sometimes we see small mistakes and are tempted to ignore it all together, but even a small harmless-looking mistake could lead to unexpected issues later on. Being mindful is important in both cases.

Have a helpful tone

The way we correct someone often determines whether we come off as condescending or constructive. It’s pretty obvious that yelling at someone while correcting them isn’t the way to go, but also make sure to avoid joking or sounding overly happy. Having a helpful and approachable tone makes the interaction easier; this makes the person feel like you’re genuinely trying to help them without being patronising.


Tashfia Mamun is a final year business student from IBA, University of Dhaka and an avid dog lover. Reach her at

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