HR Management & Compliance, Talent

How to Deliver Criticism in a Productive Way

It’s great to be able work with colleagues who have the ability, mentality, and commitment to work together achieve collective goals. Although it’s rare to find anyone actively sabotaging a project or completely blowing off responsibilities, mistakes do happen, and certain habits or behaviors can produce poor results. These problems need to be addressed, but too many workers are hesitant to critique their peers or their respected colleagues.
Here’s how to deliver constructive feedback in a way that resonates and drives positive change.

Be Objective

“Criticism” has a bad connotation. It sounds personal, like someone is being singled out for spiteful reasons. But criticism is a necessary point of feedback to make individuals and organizations succeed. In a professional setting, it’s important to be as objective as possible. Talk about specific decisions or outcomes rather than personal characteristics. For example, if someone misses a deadline, consider, “missing that deadline was very detrimental to our relationship with that customer,” vs. “your tardiness has really put us in a bad spot.”

Be Relatable

Oftentimes, criticism goes over better if you can personally relate to the point of criticism. It’s disarming and makes the input feel less professionally threatening. Consider phrases like, “I know what it’s like to be swamped and miss something trying to do ten things at once,” or, “I ran into this same issue on that project last year. This is what helped me.”

Offer Suggestions

Best for last: Providing criticism without a suggestion for improvement is one of the biggest mistakes made in employee development and improvement. If you don’t know how the subject of your criticism could’ve done things better, you’re both in trouble, and you may be making things worse. Not only is there no solution, you’ve also upset a colleague or subordinate.
It’s not easy criticizing colleagues or even direct reports. It feels socially uncomfortable, and most people are averse to making others feel bad. But “criticism” doesn’t have to be a negative word. A true professional craves self-improvement and may even welcome constructive feedback if provided in the right tone and with the proper motivation.