Giving Constructive Criticism: A Guide for Managers

Your people are human; mistakes are inevitable as are situations that could be handled better. But it’s what we do following these errors that are important for employee and company growth. In the words of Robert Allen: “There is no failure, only feedback.” We hear the term constructive criticism bandied about but just because you find yourself in a leadership role doesn’t mean you are automatically an expert in delivering this kind of information. After all, every person you work with will be different from the next, and every one of them will be carrying something different into your shared space, nevermind when it comes to you having to identify the area for them to improve. When given effectively, however, constructive criticism can increase productivity, and the quality of your people’s work can improve alongside the positive personal return for these achievements, so it’s a win-win.

Research carried out by The Harvard Business Review found that many employees want feedback on how to improve their performance. 72% of those surveyed thought corrective feedback from their managers would help them achieve that. This shows how it can clear the road ahead and gives people the knowledge they need to progress in the right direction. So, how can you best deliver it? We’ve come up with a few different approaches worth adopting when it comes to giving constructive criticism.

Avoid surprises

A meeting without notice can cause people to feel intimidated and unprepared for the feedback they are about to receive. Schedule a meeting in advance and let them know what it is you want to discuss, giving them adequate time to prepare.

Keep it Private

Never give constructive criticism in public. It should always be in private, so the person doesn’t feel singled out or exposed. If it is in front of others, it runs the risk of becoming destructive criticism and can cause demotivation.

Be Direct

It’s essential you clearly outline what the problem is. If you talk around the issue, chances are you will confuse. Stay focused on the point and encourage them to come up with solutions.

Address Issues in Real Time

If left unsaid, the problem will only repeat, so don’t put off addressing the issue. You can avoid much more critical matters by dealing with issues as they occur. The earlier you deal with them, the better for everyone involved.

Focus on the Situation, Not the Individual

It’s vital your feedback doesn’t sound like you are criticising someone’s personality. Instead, focus on their actions and behaviours and how they can improve their performance. Give examples to the employee of their behaviour while handling a specific situation and alongside encouraging them to come up with their own, give them a solution as to how they could have dealt with it better. By doing this, you aren’t criticising them; you are suggesting ways to improve their performance and providing the kind of guidance and support required by a manager.

Offer Retraining

Depending on the nature of the issue, suggesting retraining is a great way to offer a follow on support, refresh their memory and increase their level of knowledge. No one knows everything, and there is room for improvement in us all.

End by Summarising

Briefly go back over what you said, ensuring you mention the positive elements as well as the negative. For the person on the receiving end of the constructive criticism, it can be overwhelming, and they may forget some of the points you have gone over.

Giving constructive criticism in the workplace is an opportunity for you to guide your people, but it’s also an opportunity for you to learn by listening to what your people have to say. It’s worth remembering that the main aim of constructive criticism is to help your people improve their performance and support them in solving any issues they have.

To learn more about how Frankli can help you with giving feedback to your people, click here.