Almost everyone has something to gain from constructive criticism. Criticism, at its best, is meant to help you improve and grow. But, the way in which it’s given can impact how the recipient processes this feedback. Employees often have a strong desire to do things perfectly, and when they are made aware that they may be falling short of expectations, it can cause a lot of stress. It can feel very personal, as well.
However, constructive feedback is meant to help, not make someone feel bad. Here are 3 ways you can provide criticism in an appropriate, respectful manner.
Use the PIP Approach
The PIP approach is simple, yet highly effective. PIP stands for positive-improvement-positive. You build someone up and let them know of something they are doing well, to start. In the middle, mention what they can improve on. At the end, leave them with another thing they are doing well. This softens the blow of the criticism and opens their mind more easily to the improvements they need to be making. When they feel like the majority of what they are doing is great, they will view the improvement as more of a small adjustment, rather than an attack on their character.
Focus on the situation
Criticism can feel highly personal—stay focused on the fact that this is about the situation, not the person themselves. If the employee feels like they are the problem, they are more likely to become defensive and more reluctant to change. Take the person out and focus on the behavior or action. Never attack someone personally.
Communication is key and a lot of problems arise because of communication issues. Different people communicate in different ways, so what may seem clear to you might not be to the other person. The more specific and overt you can be, the better. Being vague creates confusion and can ultimately waste more time than if you were to tell someone exactly what they need to change and how they can change it. Remember to focus on what exactly the problem is, as well as the best way to go about fixing it. When you are communicating with someone that you don’t like something, make sure you are telling them exactly what you don’t like.
Constructive feedback is a sensitive subject for many people. Remember to keep it positive, focus on the situation at hand, and be specific when communicating problems and potential solutions. In doing so, the situation will be less awkward and more productive.