Management Tips: 10 Quick Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism

constructive criticismGiving constructive criticism to our employees in order to improve their performance is never easy  

What it is, though, is absolutely crucial – to the business, to the team, to you and (most importantly) to the employee.  Here are my 10 quick management tips for giving constructive criticism (with plenty of additional resources should you want to read more)

Constructive Criticism Tip 1: Get clear that there actually is a problem with the employee’s performance 


Check that there actually is a performance problem, rather than simply a difference in working methods or style, by identifying the negative consequences to the business of what the employee is doing or not doing

(Read more in my blog Performance Management: Is It Them or Is It Me?)


Constructive Criticism Tip 2: Describe the behaviors


Focus on describing the specific behaviors that are causing a problem with the employee’s performance. Focus on what they are doing (or not doing) that is resulting in a negative consequence to the business

(Read more at The Secret to Giving Constructive Criticism – the Focus on Behaviors)  


Constructive Criticism Tip 3: Avoid criticising personality traits or characteristics

Avoid at all costs giving criticism on characteristics or personality traits. Avoid talking about ‘you’ve got a poor attitude’ or ‘you don’t listen’ or ‘you need more confidence’. If you can’t see it – don’t criticise it

Constructive Criticism Tip 4: Focus on the facts 

Focus on the facts and avoid assumptions. If you don’t have the facts, don’t give the criticism

Constructive Criticism Tip 5: Use results and consequences

The easiest way to gain agreement from your employee to improving their performance is by giving criticism that illustrates the results and consequences of their actions. Use my Actions > Results>Consequences model to frame the conversation:
‘When you do this…’ 
‘This is what happens…’ 
‘And this why it’s a problem…’ 

Constructive Criticism Tip 6: Avoid the scattergun

Maybe it should go without saying that criticism should be given one-to-one and in private? You’d be surprised how many managers use the scattergun approach – delivering  criticism to the whole team in the hope that it ‘hits’ the people who need to hear it. It’s a technique that rarely works well, if ever

Constructive Criticism Tip 7: Seek agreement

After you have delivered and explained the criticism, ask the employee – clearly and specifically – to agree that there is a problem with their performance that they need to address. Don’t assume agreement – ask for it

Constructive Criticism Tip 8: Gain Perspective

After you’ve gained agreement (and only after) ask the employee to explain their perspective. You’re looking to identify – from the employee’s point of view – why the performance problem has arisen. Be careful here, you want the employee to share their perspective, not to make excuses

Constructive Criticism Tip 9: Agree the way forward

Discuss and agree what the employee will do to improve their performance. Offer your support (if needed). Agree how you and the employee will monitor their performance going forward and how and when you will share feedback      

Constructive Criticism Tip 10: Don’t let the ‘pain’ stop you giving the criticism

Many managers avoid giving criticism because they don’t want to cause their employees pain – such as upset, anger, disappointment or embarrassment. The reality is, not giving criticism causes pain – especially to the employee. Your responsibility as a manager is to skilfully deliver the criticism. You don’t have to take responsibility for your employee’s emotional response to that criticism. It’s just not helpful – especially to the employee – to do that 

Summary: Constructive Criticism – How to Get More Help 

Giving constructive criticism in order to improve employee performance is a challenge but also a crucial part of our management role. To learn more about how to deal with poor performance – and specifically how to deal with negative reactions to criticism – take a look at my online video programme Motivating Your Staff to Improve Their Performance with Positive Criticism   where you can learn, step by step, how to deal with any type of poor performance today for just $47 (including comprehensive workbook and notes)


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January 26, 2012

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