Giving Constructive, Not Destructive, Criticism to Employees

By Ashley Paskill on May 3, 2024

As an employer, giving your employees feedback is an essential way to make sure they are learning and your company is moving forward. However, it is crucial to give constructive criticism, not destructive criticism. Constructive criticism builds employees up and encourages them to be better, while destructive criticism can harm their confidence and make them less motivated to be productive in the workplace. Knowing how to give constructive criticism and change from destructive criticism can help your employees in the long run.

Provide tools

While it is important to tell employees where they can improve, they may not have the resources at hand to do the things you want them to do. Provide resources and tools to help them make the changes in their performance that you want them to. Make sure these resources are clear as to how the employee can improve. This way, the employee is not left feeling unsupported. In the long run, providing the tools needed will help your employees and your company.

Stay positive

Using negative language in your criticism can destroy your employee’s confidence. Using negative language will leave your employees feeling like they never do anything right. Before jumping into the criticism, consider telling the employee things they do that are good. This way, the criticism is a bit easier to hear and they are not left feeling like they are not cut out for the job. Keeping things positive will help ensure the employee does not ruminate on the criticism all day and minimize hurt feelings.

Be respectful

No one likes criticism. Put yourself in the employee’s shoes and give them criticism in the way you would want to receive criticism. Also, consider the time and place for giving the criticism. Try to avoid giving criticism in front of other coworkers unless the whole team can benefit from the lesson. Avoid coming off as someone who is better than the employee. No one is perfect, so giving criticism from the perspective of someone who is also making mistakes and has room to grow can help put the employee at ease.

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Keep it honest

Be honest when giving criticism. Only give criticism on behaviors and processes that you have personally witnessed, not what the employee’s coworkers have noticed. Listen to the employee’s justification for why they did the process the way they did and be sure to explain your reasoning as well. As mentioned above, it is important to tell your employees what they are doing right to help balance the criticism and to avoid being overly negative.

Communicate effectively

How you communicate the criticism is super important. For small criticisms, a phone call, text, or email will suffice. For larger things, deliver the criticism in person. If you give criticism in person, consider following up with an email that outlines the resources your employee has available. This allows the employee to have the resources and criticism in writing so they can remember what was said. In the heat of the moment, they may feel overwhelmed and forget the resources you mentioned. Ultimately, you know specifically how your employee will react to the criticism, so gauge how you deliver the criticism based on how you know your employee will respond and move forward.

Address the needs immediately

When you see something that needs to be addressed, try to do so immediately, or at least as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the behavior is no longer fresh and the criticism and redirection will not be as effective as it is if it is addressed in real-time. Avoid waiting weeks or even months for regular meetings and performance reviews as they may continue doing what they are doing without realizing they could be doing things differently. Making immediate recommendations allows your employee to adjust their processes before things get worse.

Allow for mistakes

It is important for employees to make mistakes as that is how they learn and grow. Nobody is perfect. As an employer, you need to keep this in mind when giving criticism. You have likely made mistakes throughout your career, so keep these instances in mind and remember how you felt when you received various forms of criticism. Giving destructive criticism for mistakes discourages an environment for learning and makes employees afraid to make mistakes. Ultimately, this will lead to them doing the bare minimum as they will be afraid to go above and beyond and make mistakes. If employees are making the same mistakes consistently, further action may be needed. For first-time mistakes, it is crucial that you are patient and understand that mistakes do happen and your employees can learn from the experience moving forward.

Giving constructive criticism will help your employees make the necessary adjustments needed to move forward effectively while destructive criticism does the opposite. Knowing how to give constructive criticism has long-lasting benefits for your employees and your company.

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