Take Responsibility for What You Actually Did
You quickly moved on? Is that because to you, your employee is just a piece of equipment that you tinker with through various verbal commands to cause it to function correctly, and once you determine that it was/is functioning correctly, you have no further responsibility to it?
Unfortunately, people are not robots or pieces of equipment. Thus, your employee is completely reasonable to be upset with you. You didn't just make a minor mistake. You called him out, megaphone effect and all, in a toxic way (not appropriate even for real mistakes), when you were completely in the wrong, and now think it's unreasonable for him not to just "move on" like you have?
Who Do You Want To Be? Who Are You?
For your consideration, I offer you the concept of being a boss vs. a leader. Which one do you think is more effective? Which one do you want to be? Do you recognize that being an effective manager is to be effective with people, and has almost nothing to do with ordering people around or quickly calling out mistakes?
My best suggestion to you is to go back to your employee and make a REAL apology. A good apology. I have personally identified, over time through much thought, seven elements of a good apology:
Learn My Seven Elements of a Good Apology
- Clearly admit your unjust or wrong action as unjust or wrong. You must take ownership and responsibility for the action.
- Express your understanding and recognition of the real consequential damage you caused to the other person.
- Show sincere regret for the wrong act and the damage caused to the person.
- Carry out whatever redress or reparations are possible to repair the damage or make up for it. If not possible, express sincerely that you would if you could.
- Express your firm intention to never do it again, and share your plan for how you will do differently in the future to ensure it never recurs.
- Ask what else, if anything, needs doing to make things right, and express your desire for an ongoing reconciled, healthy relationship.
- Ask for forgiveness (perhaps this one is optional, I have to think about it more).
If you can't do at least the first six of these sincerely, then you are not actually ready to make a real apology, and you are not ready to restore the troubled relationship with your employee. This apology does not have to be on your knees, sobbing, begging forgiveness, with much angst. You can be direct, and concise, and after delivering the apology you can move on. Here's a sample of what you could say in your exact situation. Remember, it has to be sincere or earnest. Calm and direct is great. Talk to your employee like he is a business partner (which he is), not a "subordinate."
A Sample Apology You Could Make
"Hey John, I just wanted to mention something to you about last Friday. I was completely in the wrong, and worse, the way I berated you was disrespectful. And that was not an okay way to handle the situation in any case, even if I had been right. I'm sorry I did that to you. I will treat you respectfully in the future even if I'm calling out an issue as your manager, and I promise to always do my best to find out all information in a situation instead of jumping to conclusions.
"To make it up to you I'd like you to leave two hours early this Friday but you'll still get paid for the whole day (don't get used to that, though [laugh]). It's totally understandable if you feel upset by what happened, because I acted like an ass. I'd sure be ticked off if my boss did that to me, and I might even start feeling unsafe and worry that I'll be blasted even when I do the right thing.
"It would be great if we could have a relationship of mutual trust and respect, and I'd appreciate it if you could give me a do-over on this one so we can try stepping out on the right foot this time. You don't have to answer this now, but if there's anything else you would like to address about this situation, please let me know, and I promise to hear you out and respond slowly instead of reacting, because I really want us to succeed together as a team."
NOW you can "move on" and never mention it again. It is now solved, old history. Any resentment your employee hangs onto is now his responsibility because you gave him the agency to address it and you did your darn best to take care of the problem. You took the high road.
And note: you will NOT lose respect for this. You will only look bad in his eyes if your employee is a jerk of colossal proportions, and your relationship is doomed already. You will gain incredible respect. Relationships that have been through trials and then got repaired are stronger and better than those that haven't done so. Do you want to be a boss, or a leader?
You don't have to use my version. But hit those elements. Elements 1 - 6 of my good apology list are all present in my sample above. Every one is important and shouldn't be left out. Each one the person hears will incrementally ease his heart and help address his negative feelings.
Taking the Next Step In Your Upward Career Path
Finally, consider watching these videos:
I believe that your ability to be successful as a manager will be improved if you voluntarily dive into leadership training. You don't have to wait until your company does some formal initiative. Start reading, watching, researching, thinking, learning, and trying. Be humble, but be confident and bold. Realize that your greatest power as a manager doesn't come from your corporate-granted ability to fire but from your personal ability to lead, inspire, and propel your team to success, for the group and for each person individually.
It's time to start thinking about your job differently. Will you rise to the challenge?
P.S. if you start learning these lessons and taking this to heart, you will become the kind of leader that can have greater success than your peers. It isn't being an authoritarian that leads to real success with people. It's leading them, yes with authority, but from a servant perspective instead of from a dictatorial perspective. Get so much stuff done and so much accomplished with your teams that they recognize you as a rising star!
Afterword On Good Apologies
Being a little curious about what other people out there might be saying about good apologies, I read up a little. It seems I've hit most of the same points as many others have discovered. But I'd like to call out two differences between my list and some others:
Other lists say "explain why the violation occurred." I don't agree with this on the face of it. All too often, explanations sound like anti-apologies. Consider: "I berated you because I mistakenly believed you were wrong and because my wife left me last week and I'm angry at the world." Do either of these help? No. They seem like an attempt to justify and downplay the offense. The only kind of explanation that helps with an apology is one that is about taking ownership.
This is a little better: "I berated you because I hastily jumped to conclusions and because I let my anger get the better of me." That's fine if you want to do that, but these aren't really part of the apology. These are just descriptions of the wrong acts. The person who was hurt knows what the wrong acts were. The real problem is the damage the acts caused.
So finally, even better is "My impatience and irascibility are problems that are hurting others. I'm doing all in my power to get these under control, because that's not acceptable." See how far we are now from "explain why the violation occurred?" That's not the issue.
My list includes an item I didn't see elsewhere, which is to acknowledge the damage caused. This could be considered part of take responsibility, but it's really not because the focus of responsibility is on you and your hurtful actions. Acknowledging the damage caused, however, is focused on the hurt person and his feelings.
Think about doing the opposite, minimizing the damage. Your roommate eats your slice of cake in the fridge, and you complain. He says, "It's not that big a deal. It was just a piece of cake. You can get another one. I shared cookies with you last week. The least you can do is share with your roommate."
Wouldn't that make you angry? He has no appreciation for the real issue, which isn't cake at all, but about respect, safety, autonomy, and significance. When you tell him that the cake was from your mother's birthday party, and you were saving it for your brother who couldn't be there, and it was his favorite cake and he was really looking forward to it, and besides your mom died unexpectedly yesterday and your brother was really sad about missing the party because he hadn't seen your mom in over a year and he anticipated that eating the cake could feel like symbolically telling his passed mother that he wishes he could have been at her party... now the true nature of the damage done becomes apparent. Showing a true appreciation of the damage done is the opposite of minimizing. It really helps make an apology more sincere and effective.