You try to promote professionalism at the office, but that's not always easy to do when so many different personalities converge in such a small space.
Sometimes work discussions can turn into personal attacks. When an employee is starting to get under your skin, take your emotions out of the equation. Instead, take a deep breath, count to 10 and respond in a calm, unemotional way.
When you do respond, don't make it personal. For example, instead of saying, "You did a terrible job putting together that sales presentation!" try, "Here are a few points I think you need to work on that will really add to what you've already written," or "I'm having some trouble understanding what you're trying to get across in this presentation. Can you please explain it to me?"
Also, make sure the person on the receiving end isn't taking your comments the wrong way. Everyone views the world within his or her own emotional framework. No matter now innocent your intentions, they can be misconstrued.
Ask for clarification at the end of conversations to make sure you and your employee are on the same page. You might say, "My intention in talking about your recent absences is to make sure everything is okay with your job and your health, and to see what we can do together to improve the situation. How do you feel about the issues we've discussed?"