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Critiquing Behavior, Not People: A Guide for Managers

Jan 31, 2023
manage employee behaviour

Let’s face it, no one likes constructive feedback. It can be difficult to give and just as hard to receive. But when you’re a manager, offering criticism is part of the job. The key to providing effective criticism is to ensure that the focus remains on the behavior rather than on the person themselves. That way, you can provide feedback in a positive and productive manner. Here are some helpful tips for how to do this effectively.

Keep your language objective and descriptive – This means avoiding words like “you” or “your” and instead using language like “I noticed…” or “the project seemed…” For example, rather than saying “you didn't put forth much effort on this project,” try saying something like “I noticed that there wasn't much effort put into this project.” This will help keep the focus on the behavior rather than on the person themselves. 

Make sure to provide clear examples – Saying something like “I noticed that there wasn't much effort put into this project” isn't enough — you need to provide concrete examples of what went wrong if you want your criticism to be effective. If possible, compare their efforts with those of someone else who did get it right so they can see exactly where they went wrong and how they could have done better.

Offer solutions – Criticism shouldn't be all doom-and-gloom — it should also include suggestions for improvement! Instead of simply pointing out what went wrong, offer up suggestions as to how things could go differently in the future. For example, if someone was too slow in completing a task, suggest ways in which they could speed up their process next time so that similar issues don't happen again down the line. 

By keeping your language objective and descriptive, and providing concrete examples with suggested solutions, you can ensure that your criticism remains focused on behavior rather than people — making it more likely that changes will actually occur in the future! So next time you're faced with someone who needs some guidance or improvement, remember these tips and make sure your feedback is constructive and helpful. If you want to learn more about how to give constructive feedback, enrol in our 360 leadership confidence course. It's packed full of information and resources that'll help you hone your coaching skills so that you can be the best leader possible.

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