How to give constructive criticism

Use these strategies to deliver feedback in a tactful and effective manner.

Criticism is neither destructive not constructive in itself. It is just communication of information. Therefore, how you deliver it as important as the content of the criticism. Framed the wrong way, feedback can feel like a personal attack, which will only lead to further harm. But done right a leader can use it to great effect to promote productive behaviours, improve performance, and build a great company culture. Here are some strategies to help you deliver constructive feedback.

1. Have all the data on hand
Before criticising it is important to obtain all the facts related to the situation. Otherwise you’re just providing impulsive feedback, which is thoughtless and doesn’t add value. To be perceived as being objective it’s equally important to base your feedback on data, facts and numbers, not feelings.

2. Reference behaviour not emotions
For criticism to be constructive you need to reference the actual behaviour you wish changed. Avoid making it personal by targeting their personality. So rather than telling them they are unreliable, mention all the dates they have come in late, or clocked out early on key deadline days. Refer to specific instances to prove your case. If you have an issue with attitude, refer to the overt manifestations of it, like the rude tone, eye rolling, cutting in when someone’s speaking, etc. It’s equally important to specify the behaviour that you do expect from them so that they know exactly what you’re referring to.

3. Build a relationship
Feedback, criticism, etc is much more effective when it comes from someone you have a strong relationship with. A leader should work to build a bridge of trust with employees through their actions and conduct at work. Take the time to understand their motivations, aspirations, and goals, so as to build better engagement. This way when the leader does share criticism it doesn’t come from a place of judgement but is seen as a way to help the employee improve and achieve his/goals. The more candid the relationship the more openly a leader can share feedback without backlash.

4. Be proactive by suggesting opportunities
By listing out the person’s fault you’re creating a negative space that will only lead to a negative outcome. So instead focus on how you can help the person overcome these issues, learn and grow from here onwards. Actively listen to their perception of the situation and respect their opinion. Then point out how this is an opportunity for growth for them. Consider their goals and incorporate these into the next steps so as to be proactive. Encourage them to think about what might happen if they were to put your feedback into practice. Show them the possibilities of the situation.

5. Mention the good along with the bad
When providing criticism people often tend to lead with the negative and forget about the positive. Good feedback consisting of communicating what worked and what didn’t. So start by telling them what you liked about their work. Then mention what you wished could happen so as to make it better. This way the suggest upgrade comes after an acknowledgment of their effort.

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