The art of constructive criticism: it’s one of the toughest skills to get right in the workplace. That being said, constructive criticism is important. There’s no use holding your tongue, especially if a repeat offender draws your ire. You’ll only resort to silently judging them, and this will eat away at you and color your perception of their work. Instead, try to employ some of the techniques outlined below.
Any time you give constructive criticism to someone, make sure you give it context. Don’t bring blanket statements into play. Rather draw from examples that have framed your opinion in the first place.
Telling someone they’ve got a bad attitude will put their back up, even if it’s true. But if you tell them that they looked disinterested in the last company meeting and were late to a client face-to-face, you’re differentiating fact from opinion,
This is probably the most important technique to get right because by and large, we let emotion force the words from our mouth without taking the time to come up with specific examples.
You can seriously hamper someone’s confidence nit-picking every little thing they do. Is it really worth the ego boost seeing someone remedy minor imperfections you’ve pointed out? Plus, you’ll give off the impression you’re never satisfied, which means when you do find something that really needs changing, the victim of your perfectionism will barely give it a second’s notice.
Just the way you frame something can make a huge difference. If you genuinely want the person to get better – and you don’t have an axe to grind – there’s no reason to make the atmosphere somber. So they’ve made a few mistakes. Keep the mood light and set goals that they can strive for. Goal-setting is a positive move as it gives the person in question something to strive for. If they’re utterly incapable of doing the job, they’ll need to be let go, but if you’re keen for the person to genuinely improve, be nice about it.
Lead by example
As a species, we’re very good at identifying faults in others, often without realizing that we’re guilty of the same mistakes. Remember: it’s no good criticizing a subordinate if you’re letting your side down too. To paraphrase Jordan Peterson in his book 12 Rules For Life, clean up your own room before you criticize the world.
Constructive criticism is one of the most essential aspects of a harmonious workplace, and doing it well is incredibly hard to do. People are understandably sensitive about negative feedback, and if you make it about them – rather than their actions – they’ll stop listening right away. So try a different tack, and remember: if it was the other way around, how would you feel?