Chastising an employee for a mistake is one of the most difficult aspects of being a manager. When handled poorly, critiques can leave people feeling deflated, disgruntled, and unmotivated.
But when criticism is handled with finesse and sensitivity, it can promote growth and improvement.
In "6 Habits of Highly Effective Bosses," executive coaches Stephen Kohn and Vincent O'Connell offer five strategies for delivering effective, even-handed critiques:
Examine your intentions. Before you sit down with the person, assess your own state of mind. Has his blunder left you feeling angry or betrayed? Do you feel compelled to get back at him? If so, take the time to cool down before you speak to him, otherwise your critique may be too emotionally charged to be effective.
Pick your moment. If a problem arises that's likely to have an immediate impact on staff morale or the performance of the company, it's important to address the issue within 48 hours, Kohn and O'Connell caution. But remember, handling the problem expeditiously is no excuse to lose your head, so stay calm and try not to be reactive. Hint: Always deliver your criticisms in private to minimize emotional fallout.
Pay attention. There may be more going on behind the scenes than you know. Rather than assume the mistake was the result of carelessness or laziness, try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Was this problem the result of miscommunication? Is your employee overburdened? Or is he the victim of inexperience or office politics? Use this meeting as an opportunity to perform due diligence. Use the "sandwich technique." When delivering a critique, it's important to censure the behavior, not the individual. One of the easiest ways to encourage receptivity is to preface your criticism with a positive statement about the person's job performance or character. Once you've fortified his ego, deliver the bad news. Ensure that he received the message, and knows how to correct the situation. Then close the conversation with an affirmation.
Prepare yourself for defensiveness. Even the most artfully delivered criticism is likely to elicit negative emotions, so steel yourself for the inevitable. Always try to focus on the end result rather than the immediate reaction.
Copyright (c) 2007 MarketWatch, Inc.