5 secrets of offering constructive criticism at work only a handful people know

#Criticism :The best criticism doesn't trap an employee or child in a dead end. It gives them an escape route. Click To Tweet We are responsible to feedback subordinates on their activities, but mostly it consists of negative criticism.While every situation has a positive and negative aspect, we need conscious efforts to highlight the positive.

People find criticism a complicated affair; It may roll for days at workplace: Employees and coworkers may come with thoughts and ideas as to why they are correct weeks,  sometimes, months later. Coworkers may turn haters even on constructive criticism; thus, employees acts diplomatically, avoiding to criticize their colleagues. This situation is dangerous for progress and development, because we devoid coworkers from growth prospects in fear of misinterpretation. With criticism we highlight areas of improvement; no constructive criticism means no scope of improvement. ( take this point in positive spirit and don’t stretch criticism in the name of improvement).

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Control, an integral part of management, runs on wheels of criticism and praise. When the wheel of criticism is detached from this wagon, management perishes in the valley of chaos and laziness, Productivity lames with broken leg and creativity gasps for fresh air.

5 secrets of offering constructive criticism at work only a handful people know

criticism at work
Photo by startup_mena

As an entrepreneur or manager, it is our responsibility to make the working environment conductive for offering and  receiving criticism,  and as a working professional we are responsible to learn — how to offer constructive criticism.

We can adopt following principles to make criticism constructive —

1.  Make criticism impersonal:

We advice others not to take criticism personally,  but when we offer,  do we assure that criticism is impersonal?

#SelfHelp :We advice others not to take criticism personally, but when we offer, do we assure that criticism is… Click To Tweet

Many things go wrong—plans turn foul,  workers get ill, meetings run wild—at workplace, creating distress and discomfort.  When things go wrong, we like to blame,  but as the case, we don’t blame situations— does not give us the satisfaction we derive from criticizing a person—we blame people,  linking situations to them, personalizing our criticism. Though the process is agreeable to us, it turns criticism destructive.

All this happens subconsciously and we don’t get a hint of it.   When we address an issue, people get offensive and we wonder why? we were only trying to help.  True,  we were trying to help, but what is the benefit of a help that creates anguished coworkers.

#SelfHelp :When we address an issue, people get offensive and we wonder why? we were only trying to help. Click To Tweet

Suppose a manager calls a subordinate sales representative and criticizes him for not submitting reports on time. He begins criticism with importance of reporting on time than dawdles towards how lazy,  careless, and disorganized the man is. Manager moves from impersonal to personal characteristics. Criticism loses its ground and becomes an outright tirade.

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If we want to offer constructive criticism, we should focus on situations not people, find ways to ameliorate a pathetic situation not curse coworkers to create it. If a problem exists we want a solution, not another problem. Only people can solve problems, in many cases,  only those who create them. When we personalize our criticism, we create dissonance in relationship, hurting the recipient simultaneously. Personal attacks will not solve a problem, finding ways to address problem impersonally will.

#SelfHelp :If we want to offer constructive criticism, we should focus on situations not people. Click To Tweet

The manager should have focused on the importance of  reporting on time, illustrating how timely reporting helps sales representatives stay organized,  helps in next day planning, and in image building before seniors. Timely reporting not only improves productivity, but it also improves growth opportunities, being a performance appraisal criterion. Above all, it frees mind from work pressure, man can go home with satisfaction  of finishing day work, nothing left for the day following.

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2. Offer Specific and actionable criticism:

Hours of vague criticism cannot bring desired results, all it does is, irritate the recipient. Offering vague criticism is like running in a circle; despite hours running,  we find ourselves standing in same circle, without results. Criticism works when it is specific, concrete, and to the point, when criticizer specify his intended goal.

#SelfHelp :When we specify the matter of criticism, specifying a change in attitude, we make it easy for recipient… Click To Tweet

When we specify the matter of criticism, specifying a change in attitude, habit or situation we want,  we make it easy for recipient to act on the problem. Sometimes,  the recipient is unaware that a problem exists, or his action will improve a situation, sometimes he takes criticism as personal attack when he fails to deduce the gist of criticism. What the recipient needs? Criticism in specific words—actionable steps to follow.

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If we criticize a coworker for an issue beyond his circle of influence, on matters beyond his control,  on his inherent disabilities,  we only frustrate our coworkers. With  constructive criticism, we focus on actionable steps, on real world solutions to real world problems.

If a man cannot do anything about a problem, criticism will only hurt his self esteem, Similarly, criticizing about a past event is also futile. We cannot change past with criticism, past mistakes are good only for one thing – learning; learn from mistakes to avoid them in future. In constructive feedback we should include past mistakes only to highlight the pitfalls, nothing more.

#SelfHelp :We cannot change past with criticism, past mistakes are good only for one thing – learning Click To Tweet

But, if we only offer bitter words in response to our discomfort; it will not only weaken our relationship,  but will discourage colleagues’ morale as well.

3. Offer solution with creative freedom:

Coworkers dislike negative criticism because it tells what is wrong? What they should not do? only telling them that a problem exists.

We discuss the problem with recipient at monotonous length, focusing on different aspects of it, but in this lengthy discussion we forget to address the most important aspect —Solution.  Any criticism without a solution is a destructive criticism.

When we ponder over a solution,  we evaluate alternatives available to coworker; we see a problem from his point of view,   his frustrations about a problem, his obstacles to implement a solution. This process develops empathy for coworker — an essential element to offer constructive criticism.

If coworkers see a way to get out of the problem, they will attempt to follow the advised path, and the destructive criticism will turn constructive—our goal.

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When we discuss about solution, colleagues open their mind to discuss the problem. With our solution, we assure recipient of our genuine interest in his wellbeing, that our criticism is not a personal attack,  that all we want is recipient’s progress.

One thing to remember here: There is not one right way, but many,  not one solution to problem, many. Sometimes, the solution we offered may not solve coworkers’ problem,  we might have missed an issue or two, or the recipient may have a better solution in mind,  which he was procrastinating. In this situation, we should give creative freedom to coworkers to decide their actions. Colleagues act willingly and enthusiastically,  when they have the creative freedom to choose a path. An internal force works behind self decisions. This applies to many situations,  but sometimes, work demands strict adherence. In such situations, wisdom will guide us when to give freedom,  when to control.

#SelfHelp :Colleagues act willingly and enthusiastically, when they have the creative freedom to choose a path. An… Click To Tweet

4. Mix positive and negative feedback:

Every employee is mentally prepared to deal with negative criticism to some extent and he gets along well with negative criticism in routine. The situation becomes problematic when negative criticism exceeds his tolerance threshold, when it is repetitive and personal, when we only find faults in a coworker’s activity without recognizing, highlighting or appreciating him for his good work.

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Even constructive criticism has its limit motivating workers, appreciative words in between acts as enzyme to digest bitter criticism. They tell workers that criticizer is not a villain of a thriller movie to take revenge on them.  Though we see areas of improvement, we also see their hard work, their dedication, their excellence. When we integrate both positive and negative criticism in our feedback, it will improve coworkers’ productivity and our interpersonal skills.

#SelfHelp :When we integrate both positive and negative criticism in our feedback, it will improve coworkers'… Click To Tweet

5. Written criticism:

Some people cannot bear criticism — destructive or constructive. They take any critical remark as personal attack and respond defensively with counterattack.  They link critical remark to their self image; criticism in public setting is an insult for them, reasons vary from diffidence to narcissism, but they avoid criticism at all cost. Thing that can do wonder for them is written criticism.

A written criticism alleviates workers’ pain for two reasons: first, they can read and ponder over criticism in solitude, which free them from the burden of defense; they need not respond immediately to save their face; with this freedom, defensive coworkers can evaluate a criticism both in positive and negative light and decide their action. Freedom to delay response changes their attitude radically like anger: When we delay our response in anger,  we find that we were angry on a trivial matter. After a delay, we avoid negative response all together.

Second, we are gentler in written communication. Before writing, we organise our thoughts for logic, consistency and impact. In this attempt, we remove redundant and offensive words; we argument with proofs to convince the recipient; we consciously choose gentle tone to maintain our dignity and image; and we get the same freedom of delaying our response, of selecting wiser words to express our concerns with written criticism. In other words, we make our criticism constructive.

#SelfHelp :A written criticism alleviates recipient pain for two reasons: first, they can read and ponder over… Click To Tweet

Conclusion:

Workplace is important,  it is connected with our financial stability, our identity and our social status. We take our work seriously and seriously do we take criticism and feedback, offering and dealing with criticism plays an important role in our career. Many times, in the flood of emotions, we express our concerns negatively at workplace, which damages our career growth.

We can avoid the damage and master the art of offering constructive criticism by following the principles of impersonal criticism,  making criticism specific and actionable, giving creative freedom of choosing action, while mixing both positive and negative feedback in our criticism. Where everything fails, written criticism works. But, these tactics will work so long as  the goal of criticism is personal development. When our intentions deviate criticism looses its constructive nature. Thus we need to ensure that destructive criticism does not flow in the system.

Most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it. – Seth Godin

Photo by startup_mena

This post is part of the series: Quotes

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  2. 5 secrets of offering constructive criticism at work only a handful people know
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