Feedback vs. Criticism: Softening the Blow

posted on February 29th 2016 in News

cartoon people having meeting

An important aspect of any supervisor’s job is to give their employees feedback. Even if your company doesn’t have scheduled performance reviews, there will almost always be situations where you need an employee to change their methods or behavior in order to improve or grow. But it’s too often that employees walk away from a review or meeting with their boss feeling criticized and sometimes even attacked.

The key is to provide constructive feedback, versus criticism that may cause your employee to become defensive, which is counterproductive to the mission of improvement. What’s the difference?

Feedback: Information about a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

Criticism: The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.

Good feedback that has the potential to bring about improvement follows these steps:

  1. Start with a clear identification of the standards of the job. If the employee’s job description has changed since you hired them, perhaps it’s best to start the review by confirming what you both understand to be the employee’s job requirements. You may uncover misunderstandings that need to be addressed.
  2. Objectively measure the extent to which your employee has met the standards of his/her job. Don’t bring up things that have nothing to do with their job, such as personal habits, unless they are in violation of the standards of the workplace.
  3. Identify areas for improvement, and offer ideas for solutions or tips. Use terminology that clearly explains the issue, but maintains a tone that conveys teamwork and support to help the employee will succeed. Give examples of new solutions to problems or communication breakdowns that may be occurring.
  4. Allow opportunities for feedback or clarification. A review should never be one way, and you will find the most success as a supervisor or manager if you maintain open channels of communication.
  5. Establish future goals. Where are we going from here? Provide clear steps that they can follow to quantify their progress and improvement. Inspire them with a vision for where they could be at your company in the future.

One of the most important keys to good feedback between a supervisor and employee is for you to have an open mind. In today’s professional workplace, employers often find that untraditional methods are increasing productivity and morale, both of which benefit business. Keep the channels of communication open for new ideas, new processes, and possibly, new workplace rules.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Mikaela Kiner

Mikaela is a native Seattleite who’s spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution.