It will not always be possible for a manager to correct an employee’s behavior without making them angry or defensive. However, to have the best shot at such an outcome, managers need to pay attention to their body language, their tone of voice, and their word selection.
Managers who are correcting employees should not use intimidating body language. For example, if possible, it is better to stand or sit next to the employee while correcting them. This is better than getting face to face with them or leaning aggressively towards them. By having a more relaxed and non-confrontational posture, the manager can have the best chance at getting through to the employee.
Tone of voice is equally important. Managers need to use a calm and reasonable tone of voice. If they seem angry or exasperated or sarcastic, they will cause a negative reaction on the part of the employee.
Finally, managers need to think about the words that they use. They should use words that try to save the employee’s face. For example, instead of saying “the way that you have been doing your work is simply unacceptable,” the manager might say something like “let me show you a way that you can do your work better.”
Through these sorts of steps, managers give themselves a better chance at eliciting good responses from their employees.