How to Give Constructive Criticism

Let’s be honest, receiving criticism is never a pleasant experience. It can take a toll on our self-esteem, and some people tend to feel disrespected. On the other hand, giving constructive criticism that can inspire positive change in the workplace is no walk in the park, either, especially if you’re dealing with an overly sensitive employee.

Are you looking for positive ways to give helpful and constructive criticism to your workers? If yes, you’re in good company. Here are 6 tried-and-true tips on how to do it and come out a hero.

1. Why are you giving the criticism?

You must stop for a sec and think why you’re about to criticize an employee. It should never be a way to exercise authority, vent out or show who’s boss. Giving criticism for such reasons is a big no-no. Remember this is an opportunity for you to point out a behavior issue and work together to change it. Criticism is never about nagging, scolding or a personal dig.

2. Leverage the feedback sandwich technique

Feedback sandwich is a positive criticism method that can do wonders. Also called the positive-improvement-positive or praise-improvement-praise, the premise of the technique lies behind the fact that you can sandwich the criticism in between appraisals. In other words, start off by giving a positive aspect of the situation in question followed by criticism, and then close the session with another praise.

3. Focus on the issue/situation/problem at hand, instead of the person

Again, criticism should never be about a personal dig. It shouldn’t be focused on the individual so that he or she doesn’t feel attacked. Rather than say “you’re poorly dressed,” you can say “those clothes aren’t up to code.”

4. Avoid Vagueness: Be as Specific as Possible

The first mistake most criticism givers make is to circumvent the situation by being overtly vague. You see, the more direct and specific the criticism is, the more practical it is. How to give specific criticism?

  • Chunk your feedback down into important points
  • Pay less attention to subjective opinions, and focus more on objective points
  • Exemplify each point clearly

5. Get the Timing Right

It pays to be conscious of when you pick to give criticism. For instance, you cannot simply critique a worker’s public speaking ability right after he or she has given a big presentation. The chances are that your feedback will fall on deaf ears.

6. Suggest Recommendations for Improvement

There’s a reason you’re giving a criticism: to improve a problematic behavior! Your recommendation should go well with your criticism. Even so, you need to do the following while offering the recommendation:

  • Be as specific as possible about the recommendations. This way, the receiver of criticism will know for sure what you’ve in mind. You don’t want to be vague so that improvements can be realized as soon as possible.
  • Explain the reason behind them. That’s right; you also want the person to know the rationale for your recommendations. How will they affect workplace culture, the worker’s career development or the company’s bottom-line?