At some point in your career, you’re guaranteed to give or receive constructive criticism in the workplace.
In order to understand how to give and receive constructive criticism you need to know why it’s necessary, as well as how to respond to constructive criticism and how to give constructive criticism.
What is Constructive Feedback?
So, what is constructive criticism? Constructive criticism refers to a way of giving feedback to a person in a way that is designed to help them improve, rather than simply to tell them that they’re doing something wrong.
Some familiar constructive criticism examples that you may have heard are:
For criticism to be constructive it needs to be something that can be achieved. Constructive criticism is also sometimes also defined as “constructive feedback”, meaning the same thing, but the word ‘criticism’ can often be seen as too negative.
Generally, while you’ll receive feedback throughout your career, you’ll receive the most feedback and criticism at a performance review. If your heartbeat quickens at that term, don’t worry! The next section will help you prepare for exactly that scenario, as well as constructive criticism in the workplace examples and further clarification on the constructive criticism meaning.
Constructive criticism definition:
‘Constructive criticism is criticism that is given with compassion.’
How to Receive Constructive Criticism
It can be really scary knowing that you’re going to hear constructive feedback and criticism, especially in a formal setting like a performance review.
Before the Meeting
You’ll be given ample time to prepare for a performance review, so that you can be your most thoughtful self. Remember that this is a chance to show self improvement, and to receive positive feedback as well as constructive criticism. Pay attention to how you’re performing at work. Try and see it how those who will be running the meeting would – what are you doing well, and what can you improve on? Make note of this, as they may ask you to fill out a self evaluation in the meeting.
During the Meeting
Make sure you keep control of your facial expression, and fully respect that this is a part of the manager’s. job. Before responding to anything – stop, think and consider what you’re about to say. You can always request time to think before responding, as being a little taken aback is a typical reaction to negative feedback, and having a dismissive facial expression or saying something without having had time to complete your thoughts can take something that could be an important insight to becoming actual issues later.
When fair feedback/constructive criticism is given, agree and discuss possible solutions. For example, if the feedback is that you’re talking to other employees when there is other work to be done, you could always suggest that from now on you’ll try to avoid chatting about anything non work related so that you don’t get distracted. This creates productive dialogue that and a better work product in the long run.
If you don’t agree with the feedback, that’s ok – it is only appropriate to disagree though if the example they’re using was an isolated issue or they have flawed sources and that it’s not a larger issue. You need to have proof, or you’re just going to come across as being oversensitive and unable to take feedback.
The Sandwich Approach
People often like to use the Sandwich Approach when offering constructive criticism,
which is structured as offering a compliment first, then the criticism and then ending with another compliment.
First Slice of Bread
‘We really appreciate all the help you’ve given while Janet hasn’t been in the office.’
‘We know that you got heaps of responsibility when she wasn’t here, but now that she’s back we really need you to hand the reins back over to her, rather than keeping some of her clients on board.’
Second Slice of Bread
‘That said, I know you’ve been looking at that promotion to head of your department, and I’ll be sure to mention how well you handled the extra responsibility to the board when we’re looking at applicants.’
Providing Constructive Feedback
It’s difficult to know how to give constructive criticism. In some ways it’s actually easier getting feedback than giving it.
Before the Meeting
Go over how to provide constructive feedback. Make sure you have proof of any criticism you make. If you keep weekly reports, go over them beforehand, and for any specific criticism find specific examples to help clear up any confusion. Also make sure you’re familiar with common constructive criticism phrases that will make people comfortable.
During the Meeting
Begin the meeting by explaining how it will work and define constructive feedback and why it’s necessary. Make sure to give people the benefit of the doubt – many people will come out with a reactive quip or a sort of mean girls self degrading comment. Give them a chance to get over that initial reaction and remember that while you’re giving constructive feedback the employee is hearing that they’re essentially doing something wrong, and if a person shares something with you it may be confidential.
There are a few different methods, but generally make sure you’re giving information that is actionable (aka they can do something to fix it) and that you include plenty of positives along with the criticism, and how improving on elements of their work can benefit them. This makes it helpful criticism, as opposed to destructive criticism that just eats away at their confidence.
Regardless of whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, always be polite and friendly – constructive criticism can be hard on everyone involved, so understanding why it’s important is crucial to both employees and employers!