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Communicating Criticism Constructively – Mac 4 Communications
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Insights & Opinions… from the MAC4 team.

Communicating Criticism Constructively

Criticism is the act of giving your opinion or judgment about the good or bad qualities of something or someone. Given constructively, criticism will strengthen the bridge between two people. Given destructively, it will damage that bridge, possibly beyond repair.

When it’s time to give employee performance reviews time or you need to address an employee’s shortcoming in the interim, here are some tips to ensure a better experience for both of you.

Choose your words carefully. Think in terms of how you can communicate what needs to be said without causing the employee to feel blamed, shamed or attacked. Factor in what you know about the individual’s personality, then outline your thoughts on paper.

Check your own mood. If you’re having a bad day, postpone your conversation with the employee until you are in a better frame of mind and can give it your best effort.  

Be positive. Keep the balance of the conversation as positive as possible. You can do this by acknowledging what the employee has been doing right, as far as meeting performance goals, completing project, quotas, deadlines, etc. It can even be a simple as telling the person you are glad their own the team.

Keep the word “criticism” out of the conversation. You are simply having a conversation in which you are sharing feedback based on your observations of the employee’s performance.

Set expectations positively and clearly. Make it about what the employee needs to do better in the future, not where he or she has failed in the past. Communicate exactly what you’re looking for in his or her future performance and exactly how you will assess that performance going forward. Talk as much as possible about how the change will ultimately benefit the individual (e.g., getting your quarterly reports in on time will really help me to advocate for you getting a raise) and the company (increasing your sales in Pennsylvania could put the Northeast Region in the #1 slot).

Ask the employee for feedback. Tell the employee that you would appreciate open and honest feedback on what you have discussed and consider asking these questions to expand the dialogue. 

  1. “Do you think my requests are fair and reasonable? Why or why not?  
  2. “What new challenges will you face and how do you think you will handle them?”
  3. “Can the department provide you with any additional support?”
  4. “Do you feel that I genuinely want to help you improve and succeed in your job in any way I can?”

If the employee answers “yes” to the last question, you will know that you have been successful in communicating your criticisms constructively.  

Author: Beth Ann Bachmann

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