We all know how to praise and reward, but giving constructive criticism to your employees is also important. Addressing a problem can be awkward, and many managers avoid criticizing their staff until a problem swells out of control. This is poor leadership and can be avoided by guiding employees’ performance with consistent feedback. When done correctly, constructive criticism can help steer your staff, setting them on a path to success.
Here are some guidelines for giving feedback to your employees:
- Be consistent. As I said, too many managers avoid giving criticism to their employees and stick solely to giving praise. However, by doing this, they set themselves up for trouble. Managers and staff should be accustomed to receiving feedback (it’s called communication!) on an ongoing basis. “Hey Sam, can you do a little more of this or a little less of that? I see this is working for you, I notice you are struggling with that. How can I help?” If the dialogue is ongoing, it won’t be awkward when you have to give criticisms.
- Think feedback, not criticism. Consider how you frame your constructive criticisms. Consider the word “feedback” as a more cooperative alternative. Feedback is a two-way exchange- a conversation where people can learn and grow. The manager gives feedback to the employee, the employee in turn gives feedback to the manager, and we all work together to solve the problem.
- Be curious. Avoid assuming you know what’s going on with an employee or a staff situation. Go into a talk with an open mind and be curious. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. In life and in work, situations and problems are often not what they seem at first glance. After talking to your employee, offer your sincere help. Ask them, “What do you need from me to get this job done? How can I help you with this? How can I help you succeed?”
- Focus on behaviors, not personalities. Avoid making assumptions and/or judging a situation based on personalities. When you discuss an issue, talk about behaviors, or tasks, or performance as something apart from the person. This prevents people from feeling they are being attacked.
- A little of this a lot of that. Along with giving feedback consistently, give it in small doses. Don’t accrue a laundry list of complaints and/or criticisms and then dole them out all at once. You’ll discourage your staff instead of motivating them. Review and give feedback in small doses and follow up with a few honest compliments so your employee knows they are appreciated.