Constructive criticism can help employees improve their work and thus the organization. However, some managers can be negative when delivering the criticism, even if they have good intentions. Prefacing criticism with a comment such as “I want to help you do your job better” isn’t constructive if it destroys an employee’s confidence. Keep the strategies below in mind when providing advice to your employees:
Create an agenda. Criticism should typically be given soon after a mistake is made, but make you plan out what you will be saying prior to any conversation. Take a few moments to consider the situation and jot down some notes. Most importantly: Don’t criticize in public.
Don’t use humor. While humor can help to lighten the mood, jokes can send a mixed message. Criticism should be played straight when talking to employees about mistakes and performance problems.
Stay calm. If you lose your temper, you could lose control of the situation—and you don’t want the discussion to turn into an argument. If necessary, wait a few minutes to calm down before speaking with your employees. If not, the conversation could have the opposite effect of your intentions.
Say something positive. There’s no need to share extraneous praise, but it’s important to give employees a reason to listen to you. Expressing confidence in them can make them more receptive to your message.
Offer suggestions. Pointing out errors is only a first step. Provide them with suggestions to avoid mistakes in the future, and ask him or her what could be done differently. Strong constructive criticism goes beyond identifying problems—it also is a way of offering ideas and solutions.
—Adapted from Communication Solutions January 2016 newsletter, www.communicationbriefings.com.
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