There is an accountability model attributed to Stephen Covey that says if you write someone a “parking ticket” you need to let them know about it. Put in practice, this means that if you see an employee (or child or anyone else) doing something that is counter to your expectation, instead of just making a mental note of it (writing a parking ticket), you need to tell them.
If you see one of your staff come in 10 minutes late, instead of just noting that they were late, you need to let them know that you noticed and that the behavior is not acceptable. If you are displeased at an employee’s presentation, you need to let them know about your disappointment rather than just letting it go. If your child failed to wipe their feet before entering your house, you need to call them on it rather than quietly sweeping it up.
In the literal sense, if a person accumulates enough parking tickets without paying them, the traffic division will put a boot immobilizer on the car because of the ongoing nature of the offenses. In the metaphorical sense, Covey notes that what happens is that we write these mental tickets and eventually it gets to the point where – in our minds – the other person has accumulated enough parking tickets that it warrants putting on an immobilizer. The problem comes in when we don’t tell the person about the ongoing collection of tickets that they are getting, thus ambushing them by our extreme reaction without sufficient warning.
Surprises may be a good thing for birthdays, engagements or celebratory occasions, but they are lousy in an evaluation context. If you see behavior with which you are unhappy, have the courtesy and respect to let the person know while it is still minor. One ticket is not hard to rectify, but a boot is quite difficult to remove.