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Providing Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is the most effective feedback method. It focuses on a person's behavior or work product, rather than a personal attack on his or her character or other personal qualities, and suggests specific areas for improvement.

Avoid surprises and schedule a meeting

Make an appointment and explain what you want to discuss. This gives the employee advance notice and time to prepare. Unannounced meetings can make employees feel threatened and unprepared to respond to your feedback.

Keep it private

Never give individual feedback in front of others. Give it in private so the recipient does not feel singled out and you have time to process the feedback. Public and hasty feedback can lead to negative criticism.

Be prompt

Give constructive criticism soon after the action so you both remember what happened. If problems are not addressed, they can escalate and become much bigger than they were to begin with.

Focus on one thing at a time

Focus on one thing at a time so the recipient can process the message, respond, and ask questions. Address other issues as they arise.

Be clear, specific and don’t make it personal

Get straight to the point. Illustrate problematic behaviors and actions so the recipient understands what you are talking about. Focus on what they do and how they can improve, not on their personality.

Avoid making generalizations

Don't make blanket statements like "Everyone has noticed..." or "Everyone tells me…". Take responsibility for your constructive criticism and don't blame it on others.

Be positive

If appropriate, also mention positive aspects of the employee's performance. In this way, you can help them understand what they're doing well while pointing out areas where they can improve.

Provide actionable advice for improvement

Give specific examples of how an employee can improve. Be concise, clear, and straightforward. Advice should be actionable and future-oriented. Setting SMART goals is one way to accomplish this.

Make it a conversation

Allow them to explain their perspective on things and ask questions about how they can improve based on your feedback. You may learn something that will help you tailor your feedback and advice to the employee.

Follow up

Don't leave it at a one-time conversation that you never come back to. After giving the recipient some time to resolve the issue, follow up. Show your appreciation when you see progress to demonstrate that you're on his side and interested in his success.

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