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
Be mindful of your timing
Offer big-picture context
Implement an autonomous call for action
Keep meetings focused
Make it routine
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.