Whether it’s due to performance or a mishap, criticism is certainly necessary at times, but the way you deliver it is extremely important. “By focusing on constructive criticism, supervisors improve communication with their employees while encouraging them to learn and grow. This shows an appreciation for the employee and that the supervisor is invested in the employees’ future success,” says behavioral consultant Ashleigh Diserio.
According to Diserio, while you’re helping a colleague with your feedback, you’re also setting an example that can breed change across your office. “As others observe this happening, it promotes a culture of transparency, congeniality, and collaboration. Employees also feel safe providing input to leadership and are not afraid to try to better themselves in the organization.”
So while it may feel like criticism is criticism—full stop—learning about its different forms, as well as how best to deliver it, can make a huge impact.
Speaking of these forms, the most important distinction to keep in mind is that between positive and negative criticism. “Positive constructive criticism helps your employee improve in specific identified areas of concern. The intention is to support their improved performance, not harshly criticize them and make them feel bad about themselves in the process,” says Bonnie Marcus, women’s leadership coach and author of The Politics of Promotion. In contrast, negative criticism often comes off as reprimanding and presents no opening for conversation or solution moving forward.
With that distinction clear, you can focus on how best to present your observations and concerns to your employee. With these tips in mind, you’ll be giving amazing constructive—and positive—criticism like a pro.