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How To Provide Feedback Instead of Criticism

You’ve just worked hard for a week on a project at work. It’s finally finished and you’ve turned it into your boss. You feel great because the work you did was awesome… except your boss thinks differently. Are you about to receive feedback that can improve your work?

Or are you just going to be criticized in some way?

Criticism is often viewed as the best way to hold people accountable, but what it really does in this instance is place the blame on someone specific. Accountability should be about delivering on a commitment or a promise instead of the foundation of a blamestorming session. It is a thoughtful process which looks to encourage people to step up their game instead of tearing them into shreds.

You can’t control how your boss will react to the project you’ve just submitted, but you can control how you provide feedback to others. Consider these options instead of getting angry the next time you feel like there was a lack of follow-through on something.

#1. Make sure there are clear expectations that have been communicated.

The most common reason why something doesn’t get done to a certain set of expectations is because no clear definitions have been set or communicated. People need to know what is expected of them to be able to achieve specific goals. If they have to guess at what needs to be done, the results will almost always be inconsistent.

#2. The right people need to be doing the job.

Would you give an employee who just started today a project that is critical to the survival of your company the moment they walk into the office? Of course not. Yet this is what happens all of the time to workers today. They are given assignments that don’t fit within their skill set, but are expected to deliver as if they have a PhD on the subject matter. Criticizing someone who did their best on a project they weren’t really capable of completing in the first place will only create resentment.

#3. Let people measure their own performance.

When clear expectations are set forth, there should also be clear measurements in place that let people track their own performance. We are always our own worst critic. We all take pride in our work. Most workers will hold themselves above the measurements that are put in place because they don’t want to think of themselves as failures. Providing advice on how to help each worker meet those expectations is the best feedback you could provide.

#4. There must be expected consequences.

Once a project has been completed, you have three options available to you: reward, repeat, or remove. If you feel like the expectations laid out weren’t clear because there was a general failure across the board, then repeat the project with a clarified set of expectations. If the job meets or exceeds your standards, then reward the workers in some way. If the work didn’t meet expectations and you were clear about what needed to be done and the assignment was given to the workers with the right skill set, then change the roles of those workers.

#5. Keep an open dialogue.

When there are open lines of communication available to people, they’re more likely to discuss the challenges they face during a project. Saying that you have an “open door policy” is a cop out. People don’t just generally approach someone if they think it might get them into trouble. You’ve got to engage people consistently to make sure an open dialogue can be achieved.

Feedback helps people to grow. Criticism tears people down. You might not know how your boss will react when you submit your work, but by using these options, you can make sure you’re giving people the feedback they need.

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