Constructive Criticism: How to Correct without Blaming

It’s vital for leaders, managers and all employers, in general, to be able to give constructive criticism. People are going to make mistakes. Favorably correcting them and showing how to be successful will do wonders for their performance and work climate. If it’s not done correctly, you may have to endure awkward moments, lousy temper, repeated mistakes and acid work environment.

If you are a business owner or a manager, you will have to critique your employees. And you are going to make mistakes doing it, especially if you are new. However, there are some tips and tactics that you can use to your advantage and be a better leader.


Provide feedback on an ongoing basis

Evaluation, communication and team talks are a great thing. At one of my former workplaces, we had a team meeting once a month. 2 CEOs were talking about the direction of the company, current and future projects, their work-life balance, some problems that occurred and how they solved them. And then every employee did the same thing. We all told what we are working on and if we had some problems.

Everybody felt included and realized the importance of teamwork. We also had 1:1 meetings with the CEOs every month. It was much easier to give and receive criticism because it wasn’t even called criticism. It was feedback, and it was preprogrammed, so it wasn’t a big deal. Making communication a habit was part of the company culture, and I liked working there for that reason. Another article cites constant feedback as a great tool for improved performance and work environment.

Constructive criticism and feedback 1:1


It’s ok not to be liked by everybody all the time

Criticism is not always pleasant, but it is one of the most necessary principles of management. Sometimes you will have to be ”the bad cop” and tell some harsh truths to the people you work with. People are going to feel negative emotions towards you from time to time, and that is normal. Just remember to be fair and treat everybody the same.


Be congruent

If you continuously showcase similar behavior and manners, your employees will know what to expect from you, and the communication will be easier for everybody. If you are calm and apologetic one day and then fiery and impatient the other, you will make people around you uncomfortable because they will not know what version of you will show up. For more information on top leadership skills, check this article.


Pick your time

Even if you do have organized feedback and evaluation, you will still have to critique people outside of that time. That’s why it is important to be strategic about it. Not jumping to every mistake is one of the things to have in mind. Criticize if it’s a big problem, a repeated error or something against company policies.


What to do when you are critiquing

  • Be discreet – Not everybody needs to know if a person has messed up. Your employees will appreciate it and you will show great teamwork skills by being discreet.
  • Prepare – Write a list of things you need to go over, and it will help you tackle the problem at hand, keep you calm and action-oriented.

    Constructive criticism by writing feedback

  • Monitor body language – Eye rolling, nervous hand tapping, raising your voice/being sarcastic are all things to be eliminated when giving criticism.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person – ”You are doing it wrong”, ”you messed up”, or ”you are not capable” are all phrases to avoid. ”This situation needs to be handled differently”, ”the results of this action can be better” are much better alternatives.
  • Ask questions – Try to understand why a person made a mistake in the first place, figure if there was a problem in communication and how to improve on it in the future.
  • Be a good listener – Allow your employees to speak their mind. Creating a safe environment where all voices are heard makes effective communication.
  • Positively reaffirm – Make sure the employee has listened to the message, but don’t keep him down. Show that you have faith in your team and their qualities and that you are sure that they are going to correct the mistake.
  • Know your employees – Some people can handle harsher words and more direct approach to criticism and respond better to negativity than soft-spoken and sugar coated truth. It’s going to take time, but you can realize which way to approach and how to motivate your team because not all people respond the same way.

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