6 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism
The slacker. The drama queen. The procrastinator. The complainer. The disappearing act.
They all make your forehead scrunch up, your shoulders slump, your head spin, your blood pressure rise. What’s their deal? you think. Why can’t they just do their job?
But what if these problem employees and their frustrating behaviors could be fixed? Would you do whatever it took to do it, to fix it? Even if it was to sit down and share your honest thoughts—your criticism?
Delivering feedback is hard. It’s intimidating and awkward. No matter how much you’d rather just ignore it, though, you can’t. If you want the problems to go away, you have to help the people causing them improve; you have to help them get better at what they do. And they can’t do that without your honest feedback.
So how can you help? By giving them constructive criticism. We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What’s the best way to deliver critical feedback?” for some suggestions to make the conversation positive and productive:
1. Agree on a goal.
Before you provide feedback, find common ground by agreeing on a shared goal—whether it’s increasing sales or finishing a project. Then frame the feedback using that goal as the driving factor.
—Faraz Khan, Go Direct Lead Generation
2. Watch your words.
Critical feedback is a necessary evil of growing and shaping your team. The best way to deliver feedback is by framing it in pronouns that don’t put the employee on the defensive, like “me,” “I” and “we.” Framing the problem as something “we all” have to conquer and what “I can do” to help you accomplish this goal is infinitely more motivating than using “you,” which blames and negatively singles out an employee.
—Kim Kaupe, ZinePak
3. Use supporting facts.
The best way to deliver critical feedback is to clarify your intent, provide supporting facts and figure out how the employee can improve and how you can help. You should be careful to avoid wording that could be construed as judgmental or a personal attack.
—Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC
4. Make it a two-way conversation.
Once you’ve had a chance to deliver feedback, have a conversation with your employee about how to correct the behavior that led to it. You may have specific actions that you feel they should take, but they may also have ideas from a different point of view that could be beneficial and potentially an even better fix.
—Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School
5. Don’t nurse the issue.
There’s this misconception that you have to first start with a compliment and then follow it with a “however,” but in doing so, you can actually undermine whatever positive that has been done. When you want to provide critical feedback, get to it so that the recipient can fix the error. Separate the good from the bad, so that they know they are valued and still understand the issue under discussion. Don’t lump it all together.
—Cody McLain, SupportNinja
6. Be empathetic.
It can be frustrating when an employee doesn’t deliver, but there’s always a reason. Don’t take it personally—I doubt the employee is deliberately acting against the interest of the business. Be understanding and you can deliver constructive criticism that doesn’t breed resentment. Don’t be afraid to give critical feedback, but do it with humility, positivity and empathy.
—Vik Patel, Future Hosting
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.