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Conflict Resolution Series: 5 Tips for Delivering Constructive Criticism

Sometimes conflict is unavoidable and happens in the workplace. If you are in leadership, you may be required to deal with workplace reviews or manage employee performance which includes critiquing or redirecting behavior. Is there a best practice for delivering criticism? Of course!

The goal behind redirection or criticism should always be to improve standards and the relationship between management and staff. Skilled managers can offer positive feedback in a way that leaves both parties feeling better about themselves and their future together.

Here are five tips good managers use when giving positive feedback or constructive criticism:

Wait until you are calm

If safety is not an issue, constructive criticism should be delivered when you are not emotional. Level heads always prevail, and since you can’t guarantee how your employee might react, it is best to deliver constructive criticism when you are not upset. Your energy will set the tone for the interaction and the calmer you are, the better things will play out. Make sure you are rested, have eaten, and don’t have any outside distractions when you meet staff to deliver feedback.

Ask permission when possible

In a work environment, you may not need your staff’s permission to deliver feedback or redirect them, but it is good practice to get someone’s buy in before evaluating their behavior. Saying something like, “I’d like to chat with you about what happened with your workmate, are you open to some feedback?” Simply asking permission sets the tone that you are there to solve a problem - it feels less like an attack and more like an assist.

Use the sandwich method

Not all people are all wrong. No matter how big the criticism, there are always things going right with people and with their performance. The best way to deliver constructive criticism is to sandwich it between two compliments. Start out the conversation with something you appreciate or admire about the staffer. Next, move into the meat of the issue and deliver the reason for the meeting. After you manage the issue at hand, end the conversation with another compliment and assure the staffer that you appreciate them.

Share a story

Being wrong never feels good. Knowing you aren’t alone goes a long way towards saving face and feeling less foolish. To the extent it’s appropriate, ease the blow of constructive criticism by sharing a personal story from your past that exemplifies your humanness and that we all make mistakes. Easing the blow by sharing that everyone is going to take a misstep from time to time builds trust and rapport that can weather good times and bad.

Offer Help

Criticism usually comes when someone has done something regrettable or dangerous. Getting to the bottom of what happened and why can help you see if the staffer needs help. Perhaps there is a valid reason why things happened and, given proper training or tools, it is less likely to happen again. Don’t simply critique someone and leave them twisting in the wind. Make sure you understand how things happened and if there are protocols in place to prevent it from happening again.

Delivering criticism has a bad rap. Constructive criticism can be a form of mentorship and help bring staffers up to a higher and better standard. Being able to give and receive constructive criticism is a form of maturity and next-level leadership. Resolve conflicts faster and easier by using these tips to offer constructive criticism.

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