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How to Give Effective Criticism in the Workplace

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As a manager, you need to direct your employees effort toward the goals of the company and leverage your own experience in directing them on their career paths. However, it can be difficult for anyone to hear criticism, no matter how needed it may be. The effective manager delivers criticism as a way for employees to expand their successes, not a litany of the employee's failures. Keep criticism focused on achieving success, not avoiding failure, to keep employees from being defensive and ignoring your guidance.

Choose a low-stress time to hold employee feedback sessions. People will be much less likely to turn criticism to results if they are stressed or focused on something else, like an impending deadline. Additionally, employees may be on the defensive when they walk into your office during regularly scheduled evaluations. Try to give personal, informal criticism on an as-needed basis rather than holding everything until a formal meeting.

Open your meeting by acknowledging their recent successes and the improvements they've made. This will put your employees at ease and make a point of showing the positive behavior you want to reinforce.

Avoid using words such as "but" when switching from praise to criticism. This puts the listener on the defense and takes away the benefit of any praise you've bestowed upon them, according to Dale Carnegie.

Pay attention to your own voice and body language when delivering criticism. Authoritative, frustrated or negative signals from you will put anyone of the defense, even if your words are intended to be kind and positive.

Deliver negative feedback for behaviors or approaches, avoid directing it at the employee as a person. For instance, discuss how avoiding a certain behavior can serve customers better rather than telling an employee that they need to interact with customers better.


Always place yourself in your employee's shoes and try to envision how they would receive the criticism you are going to give. This can help you achieve a better understanding of the employee and deliver more effective feedback.