How to give constructive criticism

How to give constructive criticism

Giving criticism can be challenging; however, it is a key management skill to master, particularly if you want your employees to make significant improvements in their career and better contribute to the team. We look at some of the techniques to ensure that you and your employee get the most from constructive criticism.

There are 5 key elements we believe you should consider before giving a team member constructive criticism.

1. Be specific

The first thing to remember is that feedback is meant to help the employee not to make them feel inadequate at their job. The objective of specific feedback is to help the employee to take actions to make improvements. For example "You don't speak up enough" could be rephrased as "I feel like you have a lot more to give during team meetings, could you try and contribute more?"

2. Focus on the positives

Try and focus on the good as well as the bad by giving the feedback in a "feedback sandwich", helping your employee to see that they are succeeding in elements of their job but that you are here to help them make progress in other areas rather than criticise. 

A "feedback sandwich" should be structured as follows: 'positive comment/improvement suggestion/positive comment. For example "I like how this went... Could we look at improving...? However, this worked well..."

3. Use the first person

Using "I" instead of you or you're, will also help with the tone of the conversation. Again it stops your employee from feeling attacked. For example "I feel..." is a much nicer start to constructive criticism than "You're...".

4. Timing is key

Choosing the right time to give feedback is also a key part to ensure your employee gets the most from it. A lot of employees require some time to process the feedback they have received. 

For example, if you are asking an employee to speak up more in team meetings you probably do not want to do this just before a team meeting. This will make your employee feel pushed into doing something that they are not comfortable doing.

5. It's all about the tone

Our final point is about your tone of voice. If you come across as stern or angry, your employee will already be on the defence. When an employee is on the defence they are likely to not take all of your feedback on board.