Giving Constructive Criticism? Here’s What Not To Say

 In Recruiting & Hiring

Giving out constructive criticism is a lot easier than taking it, but it’s still a tricky job. You want to change the behaviours of your employee but it can be a thin line between constructive criticism and plain criticism and you don’t want to put them down. The managers who are able to give out constructive criticism well and connect with their team will be able to consistently get the best out of them. On the other hand, the managers that just criticise, will quickly find themselves with a disgruntled and disengaged team.

If you want to give constructive criticism, it’s important to come off as supportive and understanding, and not aggressive and condescending. The first step to not putting your team offside is avoiding these 3 phrases.

“You Always…”

This phrase might not seem like a big deal. But let’s take a step back to understand what it really represents. By giving constructive criticism, you’re telling someone they’re doing something wrong. For the receiver, it’s natural to be a little upset or embarrassed by this. But when you’re made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake repeatedly for all of eternity and no one has bothered to tell you. Then things become extremely embarrassing and very annoying.

There’s no need to tell someone they always do something wrong. Once they know what they’re doing wrong, they’ll work out pretty quickly in their head how many times they’ve made the mistake. Don’t rub it in. Instead, maybe try something along the lines of “I’ve noticed that you did xyz..” or “I saw that you did xyz…”

“Everyone Noticed…”

Let’s use an example. You’re eating out with a group of people, you’ve finished your meal and you now have something in your teeth. Here’s two examples of how it plays out.

  1. a) Your friend turns and whispers in your ear and you fix it quickly. Other people at the table probably noticed but there’s no big deal made.
  2. b) Your friend loudly turns to you and says, “I just wanted to let you know, we’ve all noticed that you a have a big piece of parsley stuck in your teeth.” Everyone laughs at you. It’s extremely embarrassing and now dinners ruined.

It’s the same when your giving constructive criticism. There’s no need to tell the person that “everyone’s noticed that…”. All it’ll do is make the person feel like they’re being teamed up on and gossiped about. And this is one sure way to distance a team member. Make it personal, and don’t involve the team, you want to help the employee get better and this isn’t done by embarrassing them.

“If I were you…”

Constructive Criticism is better given out based off fact, and not opinion.

Not everyone goes about their job the same way. That doesn’t necessarily mean the way you do it is right and someone who does it differently warrants correction. By telling people this, you risk coming off as particularly patronising. And most likely, the person you’re giving feedback to is going to tune out of the rest of your conversation.

Giving constructive criticism can be difficult, but it’s an extremely important part of management. If done right, it’s a way to build a good relationship with your team as well as keeping everyone productive and on track. But it’s important to get your message across correctly, and you can start with what you do say, and more importantly, what you don’t.

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