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Positive Ways to Give Constructive Criticism at Work

written by: Saoirse OMara•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 8/8/2010

It can be frustrating to watch a colleague make the same mistake over and over, but sometimes it's even harder to figure out a good way to offer help. What can you do?

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    Have you ever experienced the sensation of sudden demotivation when your boss or a colleague points out a mistake? Criticism can make us lose our motivation and is one of the things which get us frustrated at work. However, criticism is necessary. Mistakes must be pointed out so that they will not be repeated. So, how can criticism be expressed without being demotivating? Make your criticism constructive. These examples of constructive criticism will show you how it can be done.

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    Help Instead of Hurt

    Stefan Bayer /
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    Criticizing a Colleague

    Imagine your colleague has messed up with a client on the phone. He had a bad day and was extremely rude. You have witnessed the incident. Take a moment and think about how you would react before reading on.

    Many colleagues would just tell him he made a gross mistake, maybe would even shout at him for his damaging behavior. Would that help avoid such behavior in the future? Most probably not.

    Instead, you should ask him to take a deep breath the next time he noticed anger welling up inside him while talking to a client. Maybe you could suggest he counts up to ten before saying something. That way, he would be able to calm down and gain control of himself again before answering.

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    Criticizing Your Boss

    Criticizing your boss is always difficult. Imagine, however, that he has ordered from a new producer whose delivery time is too long. The result: your own production stands still. Your boss wants to know the reason for this.

    Now it would most probably help neither your company nor your own job security to tell your boss that he messed things up. On the other hand, someone has to tell him why production has come to a standstill. The best solution in such a situation is to stay calm and objective. Explain to him in a matter-of-fact way that the delivery of the item in question has not arrived in time for your production because the delivery time was set too long. Suggest that he speaks with the production manager the next time before ordering something to clarify when the delivery is needed.

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    Criticizing an Employee

    When criticizing your employees, you surely do not want to demotivate them but want them to do things better in the future. When an employee has been rude toward a client, for example, you can write him a memo about correct behavior toward clients so that he has some guidelines to follow the next time. Or when a new employee has caused problems at a machine, you can ask him to ask another employee for help until he can operate the machine without problems.

    A general rule: Do not bash them for their mistake; they cannot undo it. Show them a way to avoid further mistakes instead.

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    Aim of Constructive Criticism

    As you can see from these examples of constructive criticism, it aims to help those criticized and to prevent the same mistake to happen again.

    As always, your comments are welcomed. If you have suggestions, or examples of constructive criticism, please feel free to share them in the space provided below.

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