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Offering Constructive Criticism


In our last blog post, we discussed receiving constructive criticism. This week, we’re diving into an even more cringe-worthy topic, giving constructive criticism. I have never encountered one person, no matter the position, who enjoys giving criticism. Even those at the top of the corporate ladder liken the task to walking on a bed of nails. However, in order to be a capable leader, constructive criticism is something you’re going to have to embrace if you want yourself and your business to succeed. How do we make this task more bearable and beneficial to both parties?

CRITIQUE THE ACTIONS, NOT THE PERSON

The person receiving feedback will most likely be defensive. You want to do your best to make sure they don’t feel personally critiqued or even attacked. It needs to be clear that this is about their professional performance – not their character.

This can get tricky when the professional task in question is closely related to a personal trait. For example, it’s easy to ask an employee to change the way they format a document or ask them to be more diligent about cleaning their work area. The tough part comes when an employee is continually rude to a customer or isn’t taking initiative on certain projects. Our knee-jerk reaction is to tell them that they as a person are rude or lazy.

Instead, comment on the situation:

“Customers are commenting that your recent interaction with them has been rude.”

“Some tasks around the office have been left undone recently.”

SHIFT FOCUS AWAY

Share with the employee how the problem affects you and their coworkers. If the problem is their tardiness, tell them about how the problem requires their coworkers to pick up the slack or remind them that it reflects poorly on you as their supervisor. This allows them to see a bigger picture of how their work fits into the whole organization. This will also hopefully melt some of their defensiveness as they see how their actions affect others.

BE SPECIFIC

Offer specific examples within the area that needs critiquing. Don’t just offer them one generalized piece of feedback.

“The report you handed in last week had five errors in it.”

“You were fifteen minutes late for work Monday and Tuesday and twenty minutes late on Thursday.”

This tactic drives home the point you are trying to make and helps those receiving the feedback to more fully understand your criticism.

OFFER HELP

What good is criticism without a solution? This part of offering feedback goes hand-in-hand with critiquing the action, not the person. When an employee doesn’t feel attacked and, in contrast, feels like your offering them help, they’re much more likely to accept your constructive criticism. Make sure the solution you offer is specific and detailed. Make sure to also offer follow up feedback – especially if they’ve improved.

If you want your feedback to be received well and implemented, presentation is key. Constructive criticism can be a tricky task for any leader, but these tips can help you more effectively talk to your employees and help them improve. For more tips, click here or here.