Feedback vs. Criticism

Posted by

How to tell employees that their job performances need improvement isn’t always easy. Praising good performance is less stressful because everyone likes a compliment; however, giving negative criticism is more difficult. Here are some suggestions to give negative criticisms and reviews more effectively. Though the term criticism by definition is both positive and negative, in this articlewe will concentrate on the negative.

Taking the Negativity Out of Criticism

When you use the term “feedback” instead of “criticism," it implies a two-way give and take. There is opportunity for mutual growth through feedback. You learn by getting feedback as well as by giving feedback to your employees. Also by providing praise and criticism on an ongoing basis instead of once a year, your employees can concentrate on personal growth. If you wait until a yearly review and stockpile the criticism, then the employee will be overwhelmed with all the negativity. Praise once a year may give you employees who feel unappreciated. Too, when your employee makes positive progress with room for improvement that’s when you speak up. As a rule of measure, balancing one criticism to seven sincere compliments works effectively.

Helping the Employee to Understand

The first step is to let employees know what is expected of them. Spend time on positive aspects of their performance. Talking about how the employee can continue to improve should make up the majority of the discussion. Ask questions of your employees. Examples would be to ask, “Why do you approach the situation this way?" or “How could it have been done differently?” Listening to employees and acknowledging what they have to say can help you to better understand your employees. It also gives them importance. Remember to address the behavior not the person.

Winding It Up

When talking with employees, let them understand that if they do what is expected of them, they are valued. Never go into a discussion with an employee without preparing for it. If you don’t, you can miss key opportunities for feedback and improvement. If your employee is underperforming, speak directly and clearly with a no-nonsense tone of voice. If you aren’t direct, the employee won’t understand the seriousness of the situation. Keep the talk as a conversation not a lecture. You can ask questions like, “How often would you like feedback?” or “What do you believe will be the most challenging thing about your goals for the upcoming quarter or year?” Remember, if you do all the talking, the employee will feel as if he or she is being yelled at. The employee needs to hear that you want to help him or her improve. Employees who are motivated about opportunities to grow and believe that you believe in them will improve if sincere about being good workers.

Remember criticism without feedback tends to get you nowhere. If you pay attention to your employees’ behavior and appreciate the experiences they bring to the table, you can move employees back into a learning mode. By asking the right questions it can lead employees to discover their own solutions to questions they have. All this will help you to improve your ability to interact with your employees. You spend too much time and money training people to lose good employees by not balancing praise and criticism while using feedback.  

Photo courtesy of


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch