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How to Provide Contructive Criticism to Your Employees

Updated on May 14, 2013
Constructive criticism is an important part of every manager-employee relationship
Constructive criticism is an important part of every manager-employee relationship

It is very difficult to give anyone criticism. As a manager, we never know if the employee is going to take it as a cheap shot or that we just don't like them. Constructive criticism is supposed to be that; constructive. It should never be a way to attack an employee and should never make an employee feel bad or angry. With the different personalities in the work place, there are some things that a manager should do to make the criticism an efficient tool.

Privacy is important

It is important to have the meeting with the employee away from other ears. You don't want to deliver criticism in the middle of a start up meeting or when the employee is working around a lot or even a few other people. It is best that these situations be as private as possible. Have the employee come to your office, use an office that is currently vaccant, the location's conference room, etc.

Create a positive atmosphere

You want to make sure that the employee isn't completely uncomfortable. Any kind of meeting with the "boss" makes an employee a little uncomfortable, but you don't want to come across as unfeeling and mean. So don't jump right into your concerns. Open the conversation with positives. This employee is doing some things really well. Even if they are not the most productive employee, they still possess some quality traits. Maybe they are always smiling and making the work environment more pleasant for others, they are really good at keeping their work area very organized and clean, they met or surpassed goals that were set out, etc. This is not about setting a person up for failure. You want the employee to understand that they are valuable within the company.

Meetings can be as formal or as informal as necessary
Meetings can be as formal or as informal as necessary

Be clear and to the point

Make sure that the criticism that you give is very clear and to the point. You do not want to be hazy about what you are talking about. This can come across as you trying to fish for something negative to say. The employee should know exactly what you are concerned with and why. How does it impact the company, their current job and their co-workers?

Also make sure that you allow the employee to speak. This is a discussion and not just a presentation on your part. Make sure that it doesn't become a debate. You are not trying to get the employee to defend themselves.

As a manager, you should be encouraging your employees to succeed
As a manager, you should be encouraging your employees to succeed

Solutions should be a two way street

Ask the employee what they think should happen to improve these areas of concern, on both their own part and your own. Often an employee needs additional resources from you. Maybe this is in the form of additional training, a certain tool, replacement of something on the job, etc. Offer up some of your own solutions and have a discussion about it. At the end, come up with a solution that you both agree upon. The solution needs to be something that would be effective and efficient. Agree to the parts that you are each responsible for. As a manager, it is part of your job to make sure that your employees succeed.

Follow up and follow up again

Be sure to follow up in a timely manner. If there is something that you are responsible for, be sure to get that taken care of as soon as possible. As for the employee, check up on him/her to be sure that they are staying on task. There may be additional assistance that they need in completing these tasks that was not thought about previously. Follow up on what is needed and how the employee is doing multiple times throughout a long period of time, even after the goals are met. You want to make sure that your employees stay as productive as they had achieved and you want to make sure that they are doing alright.


It is often difficult for managers to give contructive criticism to their employees. Often times when the situation is not approached properly, it can come across as a personal attack on the employee, instead of something to aid in their development. As a manager it is part of your job to make sure that your employees are working productively and that their personal goals are met as well. An employee that is satisfied with life and their job are going to be better workers overall.

How comfortable are you with delivering constructive criticism?

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    • WalterPoon profile image

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      StitchTheDamned, in the Asian context, such behavior seems quite acceptable, due in part to a long-established feudal mentality. What is not acceptable is when managers do not give credit when a good work is performed, i.e. they only know how to chastise when things go wrong.

      And what I find most unpalatable is managers hijacking the credit. That is the worst kind of behavior that any manager can have and yet, I see it many times. I once prepared a bank loan application, with a supporting write-up of the company. The bank manager was so impressed that he asked who did it. My boss told him that he did, and warned me not to tell anyone else that I was the one who wrote it (and it's not even my job to do so, since I was not the finance manager but the HR manager). And fancy me spending a few nights in the office until midnight to get the report done, while he went home early to be with his family! But worse still is another boss of mine who took my work, condemn it, and then use it to claim credit for himself. All these so-called "boss" are mere employees and that's why they 'need' to behave like that.

      But even for bosses who are owners of the company, they are reluctant to give credit, because they want to suppress your salary. It's only when you want to resign that they come running to negotiate with you. I find such practices rather crude and counter-productive because once an employee has decided to resign, an increment usually does not retain him for long. But it's really hard to convince the bosses in this regard.

    • StitchTheDamned profile image

      StitchTheDamned 4 years ago from Clifton Park, NY

      Thank you. I couldn't agree more. It is a terrible type of relationship that managers and employees often have. This mind set of chastising the employee for inadequate work will only lead to more frustration and plenty more issues.

    • WalterPoon profile image

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi StitchTheDamned, as a retired human resource manager, I must say that this hub is awesome, and I have voted it accordingly.

      But truth be said, in practice, most of us, as managers, never practise it, except when we are afraid of losing the employee. There is a kind of superior-subordinate relationship where we think that we have the right to chastise the employee, when things are not done correctly. Even as a manager, we expect to be chastised by our boss, when we make a mistake, and with that expectation, we then do it to our subordinates, and it goes down the chain.