From time to time in the workplace, it is up to us to provide feedback to others. Perhaps to your mentee, a colleague or teammate, or even your boss.
How can you make sure your words are well received, while also honest and effective? Follow the simple guidelines below, and you’ll do fine.
Don’t be vague or speak in generalities. Instead, a specific example, such as, “When you gave the presentation, you spent 5 minutes giving background before telling us why you were speaking, or the goal you wanted to achieve. Instead, next time, could you start with one or two sentences that give context and tell the team precisely what you want from us? In this way, people will be more inclined to listen to the rest of what you say. Does this make sense to you?”
You want to specify what the problem is, why it was a problem (in your opinion) and a specific suggestion as to how it could be resolved. Finally, you want to ask for the other person’s input and understanding.
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Keep it Confined to One Instance or Event
Stay focused on the clear difference you would like to see in their actions from this most recent event.
Phrases like, “You always…” or “You never…” are not helpful, and tend to put one on the defensive.
When giving critique, make sure to focus on precisely what happened, and how it needs to be improved, for the one example you are going to offer.
Be Timely (But Don’t Give Critique When You’re Angry, or Emotional)
Make sure and give feedback near to the time of the event that you’re critiquing. Not only will the event be fresh in your mind, it will also be more relevant and helpful to the person receiving the feedback.
You don’t want to wait too long, or the impact of your input will be lost.
On the other hand, if you are upset about what happened, make sure you give yourself time to calm down, so the criticism you give can be objective and helpful.
State What You Want (Not Only What You Don’t)
It’s important that critique be useful and give someone a place to go. Simply telling someone that they blew it isn’t helpful.
Moreover, saying, “Don’t do this, and don’t do that” tells your recipient what you DON’T want, but doesn’t tell them what you DO want.
Instead, give concrete ideas for what could have been done differently, and why you think it would be better that way.
Ask for Understanding and Reflection
When giving critique, it is important that the person giving feedback be open to hearing that the input was given without a whole understanding of the facts, or was somehow misplaced.
You want to be clear about your version of events, and why you think there is a situation that needs to be resolved, but you want to be open to hearing another version of the events, as well.
Remember you’re going for true communication. You want to share your ideas, but you need to be able to hear from the other side. The idea is not to bully the other side into submission, but rather that everyone have a better understanding of what happened, and how you can work together to do better next time.
If you follow the above guidelines, your criticism should be well received, and effective.
Giving critique can be tough, so go slow, learn to do it well, and be open to hearing it as well. And never forget, your critique will be so much better received if you’re also verbal with your praise.
When was the last time you had to give critique, and what happened?
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.