Constructive criticism — tactful, thoughtful feedback that balances negative and positive comments — is a vital tool for motivating your team members to keep raising the bar on their performance. Millennial and Gen Z employees, in particular, crave such feedback from managers on a regular basis to help them make meaningful progress toward their career goals.

Effectively delivering constructive criticism is easier said than done, however. Managers must walk the fine line of accentuating the positive while helping employees understand how to address shortcomings in their performance. The task isn’t made any easier by the fact that workers respond differently to feedback.

You’ll likely find most employees take such criticism in stride. Some may have hurt feelings. And some may even be angry to receive critiques of their work or on-the-job behavior.

Here are seven ways to make constructive criticism work for you and part of your organizational culture. Also included are suggestions for working with staff members who strongly dislike being critiqued:

Set up feedback meetings ahead of time

Catching anyone off guard is going to put them on defense, especially when it comes to criticism. When you schedule these meetings ahead of time, you’re not throwing up red flags and you allow the employee to play for a performance discussion. This way they can prepare and come to table with questions, concerns, or feedback about their own job progress.

Be mindful of your timing

Understand what projects are being worked on and the deadlines that are imposed on your employees. Are they preparing for meetings? Coming up on a specific deadline? Check up on your teams workload and schedule before setting up a feedback meeting as these are among the worst times to talk about how they’re handling their jobs.

Be specific

Avoid generalizations such as “you need to work on your selling skills” as they come across vague and are not constructive- they evoke excuses and protests. Prepare by creating a list of examples of both their weaknesses as well as their strengths and provide tips and calls for action on how they can specifically improve and achieve better results.

Offer big-picture context

Let you employees know how their work is effecting the organization big-picture. Too often, we aren’t able to see the contributions we make to the company as a whole. Being reminded of the impact we are making can help keep them in a constructive mindset.

Implement an autonomous call for action

Wrap up each meeting with the employee taking responsibility of their performance and planning next steps. By putting employees in charge of their

Keep meetings focused

For particular employees, the list of improvements might be pretty long… With every item you cover, you drive up your employee’s stress levels until they may eventually become overwhelmed and brush off the criticism. So, focus on one or two areas of improvement that are most important and keep at them until they are resolved.

Make it routine

Setting expectations can go a long way. Schedule a complete follow-up session to assess your employee’s progress. You both should know the process and steps an employee should have completed by the time you meet. Over time this translates to a more organized and structured culture.

How to handle negative reactions to constructive criticism

There are many reasons worker’s don’t respond well to constructive criticism. For example, they might be insecure or fearful of losing their jobs. Some workers might be accustomed to only receiving praise, while others may have been berated by a bad boss in a previous role. And others may be unable to leave their ego at the door, so they can see clearly how they might perform better.

Managers can’t possibly know everything going on inside employees’ heads, but they can take extra caution when delivering feedback. Here are some tips:

  • Stick to the facts. Attempts to sugarcoat criticism might come off as condescending or insincere. Kindly but firmly state an irrefutable fact, such as, “The figures on this account reconciliation are off.” Then, suggest solutions that the employee can apply to prevent this issue from happening again.
  • Be patient. Avoid accusations and make it clear that you’re invested in helping your team members improve their performance so they can achieve their career goals. Eventually, the walls should begin to come down, even for workers who tend to put their defenses way up.
  • Ask for feedback on you. Turn the tables by providing staff members a chance to offer you constructive criticism, from time to time. That will give you insight into not only how you are perceived as a leader, but also what your employees consider to be the ideal way to deliver critiques on performance.

Constructive criticism is an integral part of today’s workplace and, when offered appropriately, can help everyone in the organization to improve. Take care when delivering this feedback, though, since you want to engage and motivate your employees, not deflate them. Also, always offer praise to your workers when it is due. Your employees will be more open to hearing about their weaknesses when you are quick to highlight their strengths and achievements.