Giving Constructive Criticism
To improve the quality and effectiveness of something, constructive criticism provides specific and useful feedback that can be used to make a positive difference. Constructive criticism is different from other criticism in that it is focused on specific issues and suggests ways to improve them.
One example of constructive feedback is to discuss a section of a paper that might be confusing for the audience and to suggest ways it can be improved. It is common to give constructive criticism with feedback on what works and what doesn’t before diving into the areas that need to be changed. It could be as simple a compliment about the tone of the paper, before you dive into the areas that need improvement.
Negative criticism is when someone simply doesn’t like the newspaper and does not offer specific examples of how they could improve it. This criticism is not constructive and can be disempowering for the person being criticised.
How To Constructively Criticise
These strategies will help you to give constructive criticism that is direct and actionable.
1. Take into account the timing
Delaying constructive criticism can make it more difficult, less effective, and possibly even harmful for the employee who is receiving it. You want to give feedback when you are still fresh in your mind and the employee. This will ensure that your feedback has the desired effect. It is better to give small, specific, and frequent feedback than to store it and deliver it all at once. Delaying feedback can lead to employees feeling attacked or singled out.
Example: “Your presentation today was outstanding! Let’s talk more about it and offer some tips for next time. I would love for you to stop by my office this afternoon.
2. Use the Sandwich/Hamburger Method
Sandwich is a method that allows you to give constructive criticism and praise at the same time. This method starts the evaluation by highlighting positive aspects of the employee’s performance, before discussing the areas that need improvement. And then adding a specific praise at the end of the critique. Start the conversation by praising their achievements, work ethic, or success. After setting the tone, you can focus on providing constructive advice and suggestions for improvement. You are also welcome to offer your assistance.
It is a good idea to make a list of your comments before you begin the critique. You can then decide which two positive statements will have the greatest impact on the employee. Also, this will help you to formulate the critique in a specific and actionable way.
Example: “I was astonished at how organised and thoughtful your training sessions were. Your training sessions were well-organised and efficient. Your training sessions could be more interactive in the future. The training sessions will be more memorable if you encourage participants to ask questions and include role-playing activities. Your session structure was very clear. Adding more active elements to it will make it even stronger.
3. Focus on Behaviour or Action/Not The Person
It is important to be specific when giving constructive criticism. If an employee is consistently late, for example, you will want to help them manage their time and meet their deadlines.
Focusing on the improvement and action you want to see is also a good idea. Instead of focusing on your numbers, performance, or project, use objective language like “the numbers”, “the performance”, or “the project”. Your employees must accept responsibility. However, consistent criticism that focuses on “you” and not the situation or behaviour can result in lower morale as well as decreased productivity. This is another reason to make sure you have specific items or actions in mind before you criticise.
Example: “Your projects have been excellent, and your work has always thrilled the clients. However, deadlines are important for both the client and the project. Respecting deadlines is crucial to the firm’s overall performance and reputation.”
4. Use “I” language Strategy
The feedback should be given using phrases such as “I think”, “I feel,” and “I’d recommend”. This will help the receiver of the feedback to understand that the criticisms are about the behaviour or situation, and not about the person. This will reinforce your view and let the other person know that this is how you see the situation. This will allow them to understand your point of view and make it easier to distinguish criticism from their own.
You can avoid miscommunication by using “I” statements when delivering constructive criticism. You can focus on the company’s actions, results, and product outputs to make the person who is receiving criticism feel part of the team. “I” statements can help the employee see how their performance can impact your job responsibilities in both a positive and negative way.
Example: “I loved your ideas about how to increase sales by offering larger discounts. But, I think we should have a more detailed discussion with the other managers. Perhaps with examples and reasons. This idea could use some more detail before it is implemented.
5. Include specific, positive praise
Give praises for employees’ productivity, performance, and abilities. You can refer to instances when employees have exceeded your expectations, achieved an accomplishment, or performed admirably. Your employee will be able to focus on the tasks and responsibilities that they do well, and then think about how they can improve other areas of their work. Employee morale and motivation can be improved by praising employees frequently and when they merit it.
Example: “Your ability to communicate with clients and how you deal with them is extraordinary. They feel heard and I have never heard any complaints. However, I believe that you could improve your relationship with them by sending them follow-up emails. A quick email can make clients feel valued and help make the details more concrete.
6. Make sure you are clear and exact
Make sure that your constructive criticism is precise and clear. It doesn’t matter if you are making a comment, praising an employee, or suggesting a plan for improvement, the criticism should be specific to the action or aspect being discussed. Instead of saying, “Your presentation was great”, you might say, “Your presentation was excellent.” In the same way, rather than saying “The presentation could have been improved”, highlight specific actions and what they can do to improve the report.
Clarity and specific feedback in clear terms reduces confusion and helps to make criticisms more constructive. It is possible to make your criticism concrete and actionable by breaking down feedback and quoting examples.
7. It should be conversational
Keep your conversations casual and make the employee feel at ease. Listen to your employee while they speak. In between conversations, ask for their opinions and perspectives. This will help the other person feel valued and connected. This will help you verify that the employee understands your feedback. Sometimes you might also learn something from the employee’s feedback and can adjust your advice accordingly.
8. Recommend Ideas for Improvement
Offer suggestions and recommendations to the employee on how they can improve their performance in the task. Remember that you must make your suggestions concrete and practical. Before you agree on the most effective improvement strategy, it is a good idea to ask your employee for their suggestions. Consider explaining your reasoning wherever possible.
The employee should be able to see the steps you recommend for improvement. Instead of saying, “You should make the presentation shorter”, you might suggest specific ways to reduce the length, such as moving slides faster or removing unnecessary details.
Example: “Using multiple examples to illustrate a point distracts the reader from the main message. Let’s limit ourselves to one point per example. We can reduce the presentation time by doing this, while still making it more effective.
Criticism can be a great way to provide feedback and increase performance, however if it is not classed as constructive it can also have the opposite desired performance. Learning how to give good criticism will enable your organisation to become a high performing team. To learn more contact our team as we can help with a tailored training session for your employees in providing feedback the right way.