How to criticise other people constructively

No-one likes to be criticised - even justified criticism has the potential to demoralise. But sometimes managers have no other choice; indeed, not critising errant behaviour is often worse than criticising it. But you can criticise staff so that they actually feel good when you’ve flnished. It’s a very complex management skill that can be learned, particularly if you view criticism as an investment in a colleague’s future...

1. Know when and where to criticise.

Criticism should follow errant behaviour as soon as possible, while the experience is fresh in the transgressor’s mind and before anxieties begin to fester or the mistake is repeated. Except in emergencies, such as when a factory worker endangers the life of others, criticise in private, where interruptions can be minimised. If possible, allow for a second contact later in the day, when you can show by your amicability that your regard for the individual has not diminished.

2. Know why you are criticising.

Before confronting the person, know the real reasons for your criticism and make sure they’re valid. Are you criticising to let off steam, to put people in their place, or to show someone who’s boss? Or are you criticising for valid reasons- to motivate to greater effort, to indicate how performance is being judged, or to prevent the recurrence of a particular behaviour?

3. Get to the root of the problem - but first gather your facts.

Find out what went wrong, when and how, before you talk to the person. If you are sure of your facts before you criticise, your criticism will be more convincing. And don’t forget to investigate the ‘why’ and the ‘who’: it might not be the fault of the person you think is to blame. Or the fault may be shared.

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