Choose to Be More Effective than Just Reacting or Winging It

I once worked at a company where the chairman seemed to be lying in wait for someone to screw up.

When that happened, he would fire off an email to all of us about the offending misstep. He seemed certain that unless he scolded everyone, each of us could hardly wait to do the same thing.

I called this “The Stooge Slap” (with a nod to The Three Stooges). It was as if the chairman stood us in a row and, with one uninterrupted motion, slapped our faces down the line.

At best, his emails generated a company-wide eye roll. At worst, it embarrassed the unfortunate spotlighted soul and incensed others (who were angry that the chairman might think them capable of such a gaffe).

Whether it’s in-the-moment feedback, or a performance appraisal interview, here are three things you can do ahead of time to make the experience more meaningful and useful to both parties.


We’ve all been on the end of poorly given comments on what we’ve done. It likely started with our parents, who said, “I’m only telling you this for your own good!” when it sure didn’t feel that way.

Maybe it was a romantic interest who informed us, “It’s not you, it’s me” when we knew that person believed it was all our fault.

Too often it seems others present information on our actions with what amounts to a verbal finger wag. Speaking from experience, it’s difficult for me to want to try again or do something differently when feedback seems cloaked in condescension, anger or know-it-all-ness.

That’s why the first step of setting a goal is so important. Talk with yourself in advance about who you are, the experience you want the other person to have, and what kind of outcome you seek. Create that space where better things can happen — and no faces feel slapped!