Confront the Problem, Not the Person
Before you pick up the phone or send that e-mail, take a moment alone. Write down the issue as you see it. For example:
"Bob is always late."
Now that you have established the core information to be communicated, how do you soften the words and leave the message intact? Start by defining the problems created by the issue.
"When Bob is late his morning reports do not get distributed in time, causing delays in the office."
Now that you have a fact-based statement to work with, turn it into communication without criticism by phrasing it in a way that emphasizes Bob's value and works toward a solution. Remember, you are not here to scold Bob for his chronic lateness, but to overcome an issue that is delaying work in your office.
"Bob, your morning reports are always polished and accurate, and your coworkers count on them to start the day. Unfortunately that means when you are late everyone notices your absence. Is there anything we can do to help you arrive by nine every morning?"
The underlying message Bob receives from this statement is one of importance and responsibility, which are far better motivators than fear or embarrassment. Offering help reassures Bob that he is needed in the office, rather than making him feel threatened and criticized.