Giving Constructive Criticism to Your IT Employees
One of the most challenging parts of being a supervisor is giving an employee constructive criticism without hurting their feelings, damaging their self-esteem, or breaking their spirit.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to give constructive criticism to your staff.
Be Consistent, Constructive and Clear
All communications and critiques should be consistent, clear and constructive for maximum benefit. Feedback should be:
- Uniformly applied to all employees (consistent)
- Address specific areas where improvement can be attained (constructive)
- Easily understood by all employees (clear)
Keep Things Neutral
Give constructive criticism in an appropriate environment, ideally a neutral location. If you typically call employees into your office to reprimand behavior, you’ll benefit from shaking things up a little. You don’t want your staff to associate your office with the negative experience of bad news.
Pick a space where you can comfortably speak with an employee face to face. This can be a table in the lunch room away from lunch hours, a small conference room or an unused office. Anyplace where you can speak privately, without prying eyes or ears, will work.
Have a Private Conversation
Never give constructive feedback to one employee in the presence of other employees. It is very damaging to an employee’s self-esteem and lowers workforce morale. It can also contribute to and ‘us versus them’ mentality among workers where they ‘side’ with the employee who received the criticism, even if they were in the wrong.
Speak Face to Face
Always provide constructive criticism face to face. While email may seem like an easier, less damaging approach, it can have the opposite effect. Make eye contact during the process of communicating the constructive criticism and watch the employee’s body language. By doing so, you’ll be better able to gauge their understanding and comprehension of the situation.
If you have an employee who routinely misses deadlines, arrives late or calls in sick on high-productivity days, don’t wait until annual review time to address your concern. Tackle the issue as soon as the pattern has been identified for best results.
Provide Specific, Actionable Feedback
It’s one thing to tell an employee to be “more professional,” but another thing entirely to say, “Please refrain from chewing gum while at work.” Remember, we all process information differently, so “more professional” may very well mean one thing to you, and something entirely different to your employee.
Avoid Unnecessary Drama
Emotional outbursts have no place in a professional workplace. If your employee is reacting to your constructive criticism in an exaggerated, dramatic manner, don’t worsen the problem by joining in. Provide feedback in an objective, cool manner for best results.
The Sandwich: Compliment – Critique – Compliment
One of the most effective methods for handing out constructive criticism is to use the ‘sandwich’ method. In other words, deliver your critique between compliments. For example:
The sales report you handed in was great.
Next time, it would help me a lot if you included XYZ territory.
I also appreciated that you had the report in before the deadline.
When you phrase your constructive feedback this way, you’re doing two important things for your employee:
- Emphasizing what is working (compliment)
- Identifying what needs to be changed (critique)
Handing out criticism is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. When issues arise, address them quickly and privately. Make sure your workforce feels valued and appreciated, and they understand what is expected of them. And make sure they know how you define success for their roles. Providing constructive criticism is an important, necessary aspect of running a business.
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