6 dos and don'ts of constructive criticism

Do you know that there are some unwritten rules for giving feedback or constructive criticism? Successful managers follow these rules when providing constructive criticism to their team members. Learn how and when to give feedback to your team members.

The role of a manager involves providing feedback to the rest of the team members; this can be in the form of praise that acts as positive encouragement or an honest evaluation in the form of constructive criticism. Providing feedback is the key to being a good manager.

Feedback is a way of letting the employees know how they are faring at the job. Positive feedback tells them that they are doing well and encourages them to do better. Critical feedback points out their weaknesses and flaws that they need to improve upon. It can also act as an encouragement provided the feedback is given the right way.

While providing feedback is critical what is more important is where and when such feedback is given. The setting has an impact on how the person perceives it. Critical feedback given in front of co-workers. can cause humiliation or have no impact because the person is preoccupied doing other jobs. Feedback is best delivered in a one-on-one discussion, and it is best that some feedback is never mentioned.

Here is a little lowdown on everything you need to know about the dos and don'ts of feedback -

Constructive feedback should be person to person

Constructive feedback or constructive criticism must always be given in a one-on-one meeting, in a private place. You need to follow this rule very stringently because no one likes being pulled up in public. It puts them in a spot and causes loss of face.

In such a situation their first reaction will not be, 'oh, that's so nice of you to point out my follies' nor will they stop and think, 'now how do I improve', instead they'll be embarrassed and feel, 'what must everyone think of me'.

However, when the same criticism is given in a private setting you send a message that you respect that person. In private you will probably find it easier to deliver the message without sounding intimidating. The person will be more at ease, will probably listen to understand rather than see it as just criticism. They will probably also ask questions – the whys, the whens, the whats and the hows.

Be patient, and remember they are entitled to ask those questions and you must have answers for all of those questions so that they understand where you are coming from and eventually listen to your inputs with a positive mind and put your advice to action.

Keep it to yourself if it's all negative

Managers are also human and like all humans allow emotions and feelings to take over critical thinking. You might find yourself in a situation where you are just upset by or irritated about something that one of your team members did, it is just an emotion, and you feel strongly about it, but have no practical suggestions to make on how they can improve. In such a scenario it is best to stay mum and let the feeling pass.

If what they do is something trivial but repetitive and annoying then you need to offer some feedback, which is essentially positive and beneficial. However, if you can't come up with a reason other than their action being irritating then it is best that you say nothing. Feedback must offer solutions too and look like an order.

Emphasise a success by praise

It is always nice to compliment a team member on a job well done, in front of the entire team. It boosts confidence and gives the other members a reason to push themselves too. Everyone seeks praise and others will try and emulate the industrious co-worker.

If the team member did an exceptionally impressive job then you need to reiterate that praise, so the member knows that their efforts are truly appreciated. The intention should be noble, the praise should be genuine praise and not a calculated move to make the others in the team feel bad.

Don't praise one stellar performer in front of the others to use as an influence to inspire better performance from the rest. This may seem like a good tactic to encourage team members, but it is not. Don't use members against each other. If you want the performance to improve then you must get to the bottom of the problem. Instead of avoiding the problem, recognise it and offer constructive feedback to those whose performance is dismal or below par. You will likely see better results with this tactic.

It should be one-on-one if it's a recurring blunder

Any mistake that continues to happen over and over again needs to be addressed, as soon as possible. Ignore it the first time, but make note of it the next and have a private talk. It doesn't matter how trivial the error is, but it is best to give feedback on a one-on-one, so the problem is resolved.

Ignore it if it's a one odd mistake

Mistakes happen, and if an employee slips up on something or fails to meet a deadline and if it is truly a one-off thing then you should just let it pass. Don't hanker over it, they are probably already feeling bad over their inaction.

Learn the ABC of criticism

Remember these golden rules on how to provide feedback -
  • Giving feedback is crucial and giving it at an appropriate time is desirable
  • Giving unbiased feedback is always the right way to go
  • Praise when the work s good and provide guidance when the work needs improvement
  • Stand by your team as a rock, supporting each member

A manager's feedback carries a lot of weight, it is crucial, which is why it is important that the evaluation is spot on, without personal biases and prejudices. Appraise the complete circumstances before offering feedback. If the situation does not require your immediate intervention then it is best to not say anything and stay away.

As a manager, your feedback should be for the good of the individual and the organisation as a whole. Feedback that is encouraging and constructive always has a positive impact and you can expect more sincere effort in the future, which goes beyond the call of duty. Negative criticism with an aim to degrade an individual's performance will cause damage to reputations, yours included. Negative criticism must always be accompanied by suggestions on improvement. Negative criticism should never be about you pointing out another's faults. There should be scope for deliberations and explanations.

At the end of the day, a manager is in charge of the flock, the good and the bad that happens under their watch is a sign of how they are handling affairs. Things will go wrong and it is for you to set them right. Take pre-emptive measures so matters don't go out of hand.


Author: Varghese11 Jun 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Well noted content by the writer. Managers play a big role in a worker's life. If a worker is appreciated by his manager, it always adds value and he will always try to be more creative and constructive.

Managers should be:
1. Motivator- He can motivate his workers just by having a one-to-one conversation with him, which will make him feel wanted.
2. Listener- He needs to be a good listener, wherein the worker can speak of the trouble or fault that he has found.
3. Straight forward- He needs to be on target and should comment to him directly than complaining to others which will frighten him to approach him at a later stage.

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