Picture this. There’s a team of enthusiastic employees working on a project. Everyone is super excited to be a part of the project, and they can’t wait to succeed.
Then, the boss comes in and points out something that one of the employees did wrong. He berates the employee in front of everyone and then leaves.
Guess what happens next?
You don’t have to be a mind reader to figure this out. The criticism sucks the enthusiasm right out of the room. Suddenly, no one is excited about working on the project, especially the employee who received the criticism.
Ineffective leaders are quick to criticize, and they love doing it in front of everyone as a sign of their power. Effective leaders understand that while criticism is a part of the job, it should only be used in a constructive way, and it should be done in private.
Live by this mantra as a leader.
Praise in public, and constructively criticize in private.
So, just how do you provide criticism? You can’t just go in and tell someone that he or she is doing X, Y, and Z incorrectly, even if you do it in private. As with every other aspect of leadership, you need a strategy. That way, you will maintain a positive atmosphere, even when providing criticism.
Criticism and praise are both an important part of the business world. Effective leaders don’t only provide praise, nor do they only provide criticism. Instead, they find the sweet spot between the two.
Academic Emily Heaphy and consultant Marcial Losada conducted a study that determined the best-performing teams give an average of 5.6 positive comments for every criticism. That means you need to praise someone between five and six times for every criticism you deliver. This will ensure the employee feels appreciated and will make him or her more likely to accept your criticism.
When you provide praise, you want to connect to the recipient on an emotional level. That shows your employee that the praise is sincere. On the other hand, emotion has no place in criticism. If you’re emotional when you provide criticism, you’re more likely to say something unnecessary, rude, or demeaning. The same is true for the employee. Don’t offer the criticism when the employee is emotional. Wait until both of you are calm and clear. Then, offer the feedback. You are more likely to get your message across, and the employee is more likely to receive it.
Giving criticism is almost as uncomfortable as receiving it. No one likes criticism, and that causes us to talk around the issue. We start describing the behavior, and before we know it, we’re talking about something else entirely. The recipient is confused, and nothing gets done.
Instead, you need to be clear and concise about the behavior. Give the who, what, when, and where of the situation. Be sure to provide examples, as well. Two or three strong examples should get the point across.
It’s important for the employee to know how his or her behavior impacts you or others at the company. That means you need to explain the impact. For instance, if someone said something inappropriate, say you were embarrassed or uncomfortable. Show the cause-and-effect relationship between the behavior and the consequence.
You want your criticisms to be constructive, which means you need to talk about the desired behavior. That way, your employee can make a change for the better. Explain the desired outcome and talk about what the employee needs to do to reach that outcome. If your employee has exhibited the desired behavior in the past, talk about that, too.
Employees can feel as if they don’t have a voice when facing criticism. You need to empower the employee by asking for his or her feedback. Ask the employee what he or she thinks and if he or she would like to provide any input. Maybe the employee is exhibiting the behavior for a reason that you need to address. You won’t know unless you ask.
You can’t praise your employees all the time, and you can’t criticize them all the time, either. Effective leaders know how to use praise and criticism to get the desired results. That includes criticizing employees the right way. If you can do that, your employees will feel appreciated while also receiving the guidance they need to meet your company’s goals. You will create a better work environment, and everyone will work together for the best outcome.