How (not) to Give Criticism at Work

how to give criticism at workIn yet another excellent research paper by Leadership IQ ‘Fewer Than Half Of Employees Know If They’re Doing A Good Job’ the authors talk about the challenge of how to give constructive feedback. They say:

‘Around nine out of ten managers have avoided giving constructive feedback to their employees for fear of the employees reacting poorly’

Now, on the basis that managers are fearful of their employee’s response, I think we can assume we are not talking here about giving positive feedback (what’s going well and why) but rather how to give criticism (what’s not going well!). The thing is, it’s actually very sensible for managers to fear poor employee reactions because it’s very, very easy to mess up on giving criticism. Here’s how

How to get a very poor reaction to giving criticism at work

Tip 1: Focus on character and personality traits, not performance

There’s nothing quite as uplifting as hearing your manager make a negative comment on your character or personality. Something like:

‘You’re not really a team player are you?’

‘You’ve always lacked confidence’

You’ve got a bit of an attitude problem haven’t you?’

Really useful and not judgemental at all – it’s bound to get a great reaction

Of course you could (if for some weird reason you wanted to) give criticism that’s clear, objective, business focused and depersonalised – the type of criticism that’s easy to understand and much easier to accept. Read how HERE

Tip 2: Make sure your criticism is all about you, not about the business

Is your employee’s working style driving you nuts? Are they irritating you with the way they work, walk, smile, talk, breath? Does any of this have an impact on their performance? No? Never mind; if it’s getting on your nerves (for reasons that are probably much more about you than them) spit it out!   

It’s really so affirming to know my manager can’t stand the sight of me – even though all the results I achieve indicate I’m actually a pretty good performer. So what? If my manager doesn’t like me, I’ll do everything in my power to change. Not.

Or maybe, just maybe, before you give this type of criticism you might want to take some time to ask the question ‘Is it them, or is it me?’ (read more on how to use this question HERE)

Tip 3: Scatter the criticism far and wide

OK, so who wants to sit down with an employee, face to face, and talk to them directly about an aspect of their performance that requires improvement? Bit personal isn’t it? So here’s an idea; call together the whole team and then, bang, deliver the criticism to them all in the hope that:

a) The (one) underperforming employee will understand that the criticism is really aimed at them (and only them) and, without any idea of how to do this, will immediately begin to improve their performance (oh look – there’s a pig flying overhead)

b) The rest of the team (including the good and frankly brilliant team members) will feel no resentment whatsoever at being accused of a crime they haven’t committed. None. (You can read more on this brilliant technique HERE)

Giving criticism at work summary

Joking apart, it is surprisingly easy to give criticism badly and to (of course) get a very poor reaction from our employees. How to avoid this? Well you can see more ideas HERE or why not…

constructive criticismtake a look at my e-book ‘Motivating Your Staff to Improve Their Performance with Positive Criticism’ – a step-by-step guide for giving criticism in a way that your staff member finds easy to understand and easy to accept and that motivates them to make a change that improves their performance. More details HERE

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