The Three stages of a “dressing down”

Time to Read – 90 seconds

Time to Deliver – As long as it takes to “work”

Thank you for your feedback to the clip from Gettysburg  last week. Many of you asked for a breakdown of the stages in the process between General Lee and General JEB Stuart, which in case you didn’t get a chance to see is here…

Stage One

“It is the opinion…” – State the problem in simple language, and be clear that you hold and that you hold the person accountable – when telling someone off at work or at home focus on the problem, not on the person.

Stage Two

Give the person an opportunity to speak, to defend themselves or (if you have done stage one correctly, to agree with you). In the clip Lee does not really allow Stuart to do this – because they did not have as much time as you will have (unless you will be facing a major battle the next day).

Stage Three

Praise the person (if you do rate him/her) – this is where you make it personal, as Lee does brilliantly.

I also appreciate the number of you who pointed out what an amazing leader General Lee was, perhaps the most beloved loser in American military history.

With my love and best wishes


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  • Marcus Adams

    Sometimes it becomes personal. You want to lambaste the issue and the person because in some cases they are one and the same.
    You take someone to task over something and they are going to take it personally anyway. it’s human nature.
    Some people are so thick-skinned they don’t accept the criticism however you deliver it.

  • Paul Charlton

    Having a go at someone can be done in a more discreet manner than that.
    Work on it!

  • Chris Everton

    Having a go at someone is not the same as giving them a reprimand.
    There is a subtle difference.
    Love the constructive message that comes across here.

  • Rosalind (NakedLeader)

    Received this additional advice from Martin – Thank you.
    ‘The most important element of providing feedback is that it describes the impact does your formula cover this?

    Here is the situation….. this was the behaviour (be very accurate) ….describe the impact……’

  • Chris Everton

    The impact on me when i was reprimanded at work a few years ago was to make sure it didn’t happen again.
    I knuckled down, got on with the job and made sure there was never any reason to come back to me with another one.
    That was the situation, that was my behaviour and the impact has been that I have kept on the straight and narrow in business ever since.

  • Mary Hull

    it isn’t particularly nice being told off but sometimes it can have a positive effect.
    I realised I no longer wanted to be part of a culture where the blame game was so easily offloaded on to someone else. So I made a choice and went a different way. Best thing I ever did.

  • Rakesh Noah

    A lot of good can come out of a discussion that may turn into a reprimand.
    It can clear the air and make a relationship stronger.
    That way you can move on and enjoy the benefits of an enhanced relationship.

  • Boris Cahn

    I agree that some things can come to a head, then improve. Sometimes that has to happen for a relationship to move on.

  • Neil C

    I prefer a dressing down than for something to fester and get worse. Some things need to be said.

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