How to Give Constructive Criticism in the Workplace

Giving constructive criticism is something every manager must learn to do. In many cases, the recipient of the criticism will be an employee. But, for professional services directors and client managers, situations may arise in which you need to offer constructive criticism to a client — a daunting task that requires delicate handling. 

So, what are some best practices for giving constructive criticism to clients and employees? Read on to find out!

How to give constructive criticism to an employee

For many new managers, the thought of giving constructive criticism to an employee may seem intimidating. Even the most seasoned managers may find it challenging to deliver honest feedback to employees in certain situations. But, the truth is that constructive criticism is a normal and necessary part of the manager-employee relationship. 

In a lot of instances, knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do for a given project or task. If managers simply avoided giving constructive criticism when needed, employees would be at risk of continuously making costly, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous mistakes. 

What’s more, it actually turns out that employees want to hear constructive criticism more than they want to hear positive feedback. One Harvard Business Review study found that 57% of workers preferred constructive criticism while 43% preferred praise or recognition. Additionally, 72% of those surveyed said they “thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.” 

Knowing that your employees want to hear honest feedback should help ease your anxiety. But here are a few other considerations to help make the feedback session as smooth and painless as possible.

  • Don’t make it personal 
    This is probably the most important tenet when it comes to delivering constructive criticism. Never focus on the employee’s personality; rather, talk about their actions and what can be done to improve. 
  • Be specific
    It’s always best to be as specific as possible in your feedback. Instead of speaking in generalities, pick out concrete examples of behaviors or situations that illustrate your points. 
  • Ensure you’re on the same page
    Along with being specific, you want to ensure your team member is clear about expectations moving forward. One great way to do this is by simply asking the person to tell you what their takeaways are before concluding the feedback session. 
  • Keep it positive
    Keeping the tone of the feedback positive can also help make delivering it a little easier. For instance, instead of saying something like, “you never give any input during meetings,” you could say, “I’d love to hear you speak up more in meetings.”
  • Make it a dialogue
    Instead of making the feedback a one-way monologue, make it a dialogue by asking the recipient for their perspective on things. Not only will this make them feel valued, it will also go a long way in building rapport. 

How to offer constructive criticism to a client

As a manager, giving constructive criticism to an employee is a normal and expected part of the job. But delivering constructive criticism to a client can be intimidating for even the most experienced managers and directors. 

Fortunately, the same principles that apply to critiquing team members apply when critiquing clients. Here are a few additional thoughts to help you prepare to deliver honest feedback to your paying clients:

  • Keep constructive criticism between you and the recipient
    Just like with an employee, it’s poor form to critique a client publicly or in front of other team members or clients. Make sure you schedule a private meeting, whether in person or via phone or video call.
  • Be accurate
    This one goes hand-in-hand with being specific. Using specific examples will help the client understand exactly what you’re saying. Any supporting documentation you can provide will ensure that you’re accurate in your assessment of the situation.
  • Be prepared
    Of course, you can’t be accurate or specific if you aren’t prepared. It’s never a good idea to give feedback off the cuff, as you’re more likely to be in an emotional state or visibly upset. Give yourself time to cool off by preparing for the feedback session and gathering up any documentation or supporting evidence you need. 

How to write constructive criticism

When it comes to delivering constructive criticism in writing, the guidelines discussed above all apply. Being as specific and accurate as possible while keeping things positive and never personal will serve you well when offering written feedback. It’s also important to keep the conversation between you and the intended recipient private whenever possible. 

Keeping the conversation private is easy when using email. But many collaborative work management solutions, including Wrike, offer live editing tools on projects. That means that employees and managers alike need to be careful when posting comments on projects with shared visibility.

If you’d like to learn more about how Wrike makes collaboration between project teams and clients a snap, start a free two-week trial today!

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