How to Take and Deliver Constructive Criticism in the Workplace?
Giving and receiving constructive criticism is not an easy act. Effective criticism can be crucial to the development and growth of the entire team.
No matter you are a junior specialist or an experienced project manager, – everyone can get criticism, even while working remotely. When managers apply powerful strategies for delivering constructive criticism in the workplace, team members can benefit from actionable feedback.
In this article, we define what constructive criticism is and propose some effective steps you can take to handle constructive criticism. The post will be useful for anyone, regardless of your company’s hierarchical system.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
What is Constructive Criticism?
Constructive criticism is a way to give constructive feedback that will provide specific and actionable suggestions. Unlike general tips, constructive criticism is about specific useful recommendations on how to achieve improvements. This kind of criticism is clear, accessible, and easy to put into action.
Constructive criticism in the workplace can be included in the improvement strategy aimed to help individuals set and reach their business goals. It can be considered as a means for creating a positive atmosphere when team members are comfortable to ask questions, request assistance, and propose their ideas.
Is criticism always bad? It is not bad as long as it’s constructive. If the goal of your critic is to help you improve at your craft, make sure you hear every single suggestion he/she is willing to offer.
Unfortunately, in many cases, critics have self-serving motives. They strive to control you, increase their power, and even boost their influence by diminishing the work of people around them. Their goal is to look good by making everyone else look bad.
What is the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism?
- Constructive criticism, as we mentioned above, is aimed to be helpful and is based on valid facts. It can be not always positive. However, even negative criticism can help you to see things in a new light. A person who critic in a constructive way almost always gives it based on his/her personal experience, sincerely wanting to help out.
- The purpose of destructive criticism is to strictly ridicule and cause harm. The critic will strive to belittle, destroy, give negative feedback, and embarrass you. Destructive criticism gives individuals fear of criticism in general. It makes them feel like they are being attacked. In some cases, it is directed to make people feel miserable about themselves or their business.
Constructive criticism is also:
- often educational
- related to the issue at hand
- aiming to build on or bolster an idea
- intended to improve a person/business.
Destructive criticism also:
- makes a person feel like being attacked
- tears apart an idea
- often is not well thought out
- is aimed to make people feel so miserable about themselves or their business that they give up.
6-Step Process to Handle Criticism
1. Work on your first reaction
When you hear the first critical phrases, keep calm, and stop before doing anything. The best way is to not react at all. Although in real life, one second seems insignificant, you will have it to stop your reaction. It is enough for your brain to process a situation. It is quite important to take this moment to halt a dismissive facial expression and remind yourself to stay calm. Avoid bursting into tears or getting mad, it can damage your reputation and constructive critics will not have a desire to give you the criticism in the future for fear of you having the same reaction.
2. Use the benefit of getting feedback
You should always keep in mind how beneficial feedback is. It can really make you and your business stronger.
Constructive feedback in the workplace requires deep consideration when making decisions about the issue. If you face destructive feedback, take it, and rise above it. This can be a good motivator to push yourself and prove that your opponent is wrong.
3. Listen to understand, not just to respond
Be polite to listen to what the person has to say, and let him/her finish full thoughts before responding. If the speech is long, try to not miss anything, taking short notes. In order to be sure that you fully understand what he/she is intending to say, paraphrase what they said after they are done. This will show the constructive critic that you value what he/she wants to say, and so they can see that you were fully listening.
4. Do not forget to say thank you
Then it’s time to look the person in the eyes and thank him/her for sharing feedback with you. Admit that you really appreciate their taking the time to talk about this with you. Expressing your appreciation doesn’t obligatory mean that you’re agreeing with the assessment. It can demonstrate that you’re acknowledging the effort the person took to evaluate you.
5. Ask questions to be involved and get a better understanding
You will probably want to get some clarification on issues that were brought up. It will help you to be able to integrate the comments received into the actions for making you or your business better. Ask questions to get to the roots of the actual issues and possible solutions and try to find specific examples to help you understand the issue.
6. Request a chance to follow-up
Sometimes it’s enough a simple “thank you” if it is a minor issue with a simple solution. However, if the issue looks recurring and severe, it is better to ask for a chance to meet again to get more clarification on the issue and to create a more finite plan of attack. This will give you some time to process the feedback, look for advice from others, and think about the possible solution.
Delivering Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism in the workplace can be a part of implementing an improvement strategy from your side, with the aim to help your team members set and achieve their work goals. There are some easy ways to deliver constructive criticism properly.
“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
Norman Vincent Peale
Quick tips for giving constructive criticism
1. Apply the sandwich method
The sandwich method means providing constructive criticism in between specific praise statements. According to this method, an evaluation is opened with praise for what a person has done well before discussing which aspects of his/her behavior need improvement. The feedback is concluded with another praise statement.
2. Apply the “I” language concept
The phrases like “I think,” “I feel” or “I’d suggest” will help a person to understand that your criticism is about the situation or behavior rather than about him/her as a person. This will make it easier for people to separate the criticism from themselves.
3. Focus on the action
Delivering constructive criticism means focusing on the specific action, outcome, or behavior that you would like to see improved.
Try to use non-specific language (for example, “the performance” rather than or “your performance”, “the project” rather than “your project”, and so on).
Remember, that consistently delivering criticism that places emphasis on “you” rather than the situation may often lead to less morale and productivity overall.
4. Add positive praise
Do not hesitate to also praise your team member’s performance, productivity, the ability to exceed expectations, or another achievement that was done well. It will allow them to focus on the tasks and responsibilities that they perform satisfactorily and will increase morale and motivation.
5. Provide actionable feedback
It is important to provide constructive feedback that people will put into action immediately to reach new objectives and improve their performance. Discuss possible strategies that both you and your team member can use to work toward improvement.
In many cases, constructive criticism is the only way to learn about our weaknesses. And there can be no ways without it to improve the situation. We often defensive, instead of accepting useful feedback and it logically leads to the risk of missing out on this important insight.
The main idea is that it worth remembering that constructive feedback is not easy to give and not easy to receive, but it will definitely help you in the long run.