Giving Constructive Criticism at Work
No matter where you stand in an organisation, giving constructive criticism can be part and parcel of your work life. While some may shun away from delivering criticism because of the discomfort, it ultimately boils down to what the criticism is and the way in which it is being delivered. When giving constructive criticism, it is important to include specific and actionable recommendations. This way, the receiver is better able to understand the areas that he or she needs to improve in.
There lies a common misunderstanding that constructive criticism comes only from top to bottom. However, that is not always the case, especially in today’s world where more and more organisations are encouraging open communication to facilitate the exchange of opinions and ideas. Sometimes, good advice can come from the most unexpected of places when we are open-minded!
The way in which you deliver your message can also result in very different outcomes. Constructive criticism, when delivered well, can be helpful in motivating employees, driving better performances, and building stronger workplace relationships. To reap these benefits, here are some strategies that can help you to master the art of constructive criticism at your workplace:
Phrase it Positively
When delivering constructive criticism, always remember the objective of the criticism and who you are giving it to. The ultimate goal is to motivate the other person and provide them with guidance and support to help them improve.
In essence, try to keep the tone light, and phrase your message positively. At the end of the day, the person receiving the criticism should feel encouraged to improve instead of being brought down.
One way to keep things positive is to first focus on what the person has done well in. This helps to set the tone of the meeting and allows the person to understand their strengths. Afterwhich, you can continue with the things that they can improve on so that they can work on their weaknesses.
For example, instead of saying “What you have suggested is not good enough”, you can say “I like your idea on the recent event proposal, but perhaps for the portion on the vendor sources, it would be better to include 2-3 more alternatives so that we have a better comparison of the options.” Acknowledging what has been done well when giving constructive criticism can also help the person feel appreciated for their hard work, which will eventually drive positive outcomes.
Finally, it is ideal to wrap up the feedback session with some encouragement to reiterate the positive comments mentioned at the start. This strategy is also known as the “Feedback Sandwich”, which is a popular analogy used widely to describe sandwiching criticism between a positive opening and ending, to keep the overall feedback digestible.
Be Clear and Specific
Preparation is key to giving constructive criticism. You can list down the things you plan to feedback on, and be as clear as possible. If needed, provide detailed examples on your point, such as the kind of behaviour change that you wish to see.
Vague comments that are not precise may result in even more confusion. If your feedback is not understood, more mistakes may be made in future assignments or projects. Hence, it is best to be as clear as possible to avoid any ambiguity. If the feedback that you are giving involves many different aspects, you can try to break it down into more digestible parts for better clarity. In the process of breaking things down, it will also help you to better remember the points that you wish to communicate to the other person.
Moving forward from the feedback session, the receiver of your feedback should have a clear direction and know exactly what to work on.
Don’t Make It Personal
Constructive criticism focuses on the situation and not on the person. Instead of the employee, you can highlight the action or the issue at hand. For example, instead of saying “You are messy”, you can use a more passive voice and say, “The report could be better organised.”
Making personal attacks or using emotionally-charged language may not help to solve the problem at hand and could possibly aggravate the situation. Instead, you can explain clearly the consequences of the person’s actions and how that affected you or other people negatively. Allowing them to understand a different point of view may help them to see the root of the problem and be more receptive towards the feedback.
Always remember that your workplace is a professional space and no personal emotions should be involved.
Use the Right Channel
When and where the feedback session takes place matters too. Using the right channel provides a safe space for the other person to ask questions, seek help or share ideas. If possible, try not to publicly share your feedback, because there is a chance that the other person might feel embarrassed, ashamed or personally attacked even if you never had the intention to do so.
You can utilise personal chats, emails or book a meeting room to communicate the feedback one-to-one. Whenever possible, the best option will still be communicating face-to-face. This is to ensure that the person feels respected, hence facilitating the discussion of what can be done better.
While giving constructive criticism is usually one-way (from one person to the other), it is always good to promote two-way conversations. This can be in the form of allowing the other person to ask questions, or air their thoughts on the issue. With safer spaces for employees to share their thoughts, there would also be greater employee satisfaction.
With two-way communication comes more opportunities for collaboration and stronger workplace relationships. Furthermore, greater trust can be established when employees feel safe about airing their opinions freely. This will then ensure that they are more receptive towards constructive criticism in future.
Now that you understand a little better on how you can provide constructive criticism, you are one step closer to building better workplace relationships! Find out other ways to foster good relationships among your team here. You can also check out our career portal at www.jobspivot.com.sg!