Taking The Sting Out Of Criticism

by John Tschohl

Giving positive feedback is always easy, but what about those times when an
employee is not performing and you need to give negative feedback? That can be a
different story, especially for those who do not like confrontation. Managers need
to be careful when dishing out negative feedback, and need to make sure that it is
done constructively. It is important to tread carefully in order not to demoralize the
employee. Most importantly when having to dish out negative feedback, it is
important to always try to also acknowledge any positives the employee may have
achieved first.

Don’t be mean-spirited when offering criticism

If you consistently give only negative feedback, people will
distrust the criticism and it will become useless. Don’t make
employees feel like burdens and don’t condemn them for their
shortcomings. Business isn’t just about business; it is people
working with people. We need to be sensitive to the feelings of others and know
that how we treat them will bounce back and hit us—or at least it should—and
chances are it will all come as a surprise and if there is just too much for them to
get their minds around it may just overwhelm them and they will feel they are not
able to do anything right and quickly shut off.

Be positive.

Give at least as much positive feedback as you do negative. Positivity stimulates
the reward centers in the brain leaving the recipient open to taking new direction.
Negative criticism turns on the threat response and defensiveness sets in. You
don’t need to avoid the negative or corrective just make sure you present a positive
solution or outcome. Your feedback won’t be productive if it’s focused on making
the other person feel bad or make them look inadequate or unable to correct their
Balance your constructive feedback by first stating something they’re doing well.
This will give them an example of what you’re expectations are and boost their
confidence. Make it clear you are available to talk with them and want to help
them continue performing and developing these types of skills
Recent studies have shown that most employees really do want to know what they
can be doing to perform their job better. As a matter of fact, those who favored
constructive feedback also rated their managers highest for being honest and
straightforward. What can be taken away from these statistics is the fact that they
want to know what they can be doing to improve their performance.

Find a solution together.

Give your employees a chance to respond to your comments so you can see it from
their perspective and properly address the situation. Remember your job is to give
them perspective on their actions. Give suggestions of ways they could adjust their
performance and ask what steps they think they could take.
And finally, ask for advice on how you can help them to achieve this goal.
Remember, people have a habit of becoming what you encourage them to be, not
what you nag them to be.


“You are the most important factor in your own development. If you’re determined
to learn from whatever feedback you get, no one can stop you.”—John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker. He is founder and
president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Described by
Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written
several books on customer service including Moving Up. The Service Quality
Institute ( has developed more than 26 customer service
training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world. John’s
monthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. He can also be reached on
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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