9 August 2019

Your Career - How To Give Constructive Criticism Without Looking (and Feeling) Like a Dick

In most lines of work, there comes a time when we have to give criticism and feedback to a colleague of ours. Naturally, most people feel a bit uneasy when tasked with critiquing somebody else’s work. I mean, of course it feels a bit off having to talk to someone personally about how they have failed at something or how they’ve have failed to deliver a piece of work at the desirable and expected standard.

Uncomfortable as it may be, giving honest and constructive feedback is natural part of most jobs. More so if you’re in a managerial position and looking to advance your career. In that case it’s essentially that you know how to conduct yourself. You have to demonstrate that you have a keen eye for detail and being to help people grow alongside you. Navigating successfully through this topics implies emotional intelligence and maturity, as well as the ability and confidence to manage uncomfortable conversations.

I receive feedback on my work on daily basis, from clients, from colleagues and my managers. This feedback helps me grow and develop. I also give feedback around the creative work that is being presented to me every day.

Here is how I approach the topic of constructive criticism and a few tips on how you can do too.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT GIVING AND RECEIVING FEEDBACK IS COMPLETELY NORMAL AT WORK

None of us are perfect and in some industries (my field, marketing, in particular) are so fast paced and things are changing all the time. Feedback is what keeps us in check so it should be welcomed. As I explained, I give and receive feedback on daily basis so for me, this is the norm. Others however, may not be used to receiving feedback so it’s essential you make them aware that this is a normal part of day-to-day working life.

PUT YOURSELF INTO THE OTHER PERSON’S SHOES (PRACTICE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE)

Is the person you need to speak to quite anxious? Would they prefer if you’d address this issue in private as opposed to at their desk when people may overhear? Or is this a completely normal and expected interaction? In my line of work, I get a lot of work directly from designers and artworkers so it’s completely normal for me to pull up a chair, sit at their desk and go through what they’ve delivered. In another instance, at a previous job, I had to tell someone that their personal hygiene was not up to standard, and there was a rather unpleasant odour wafting from her so obviously, I had to have that conversation behind closed doors. Evaluate the situation and make the other person feel safe when delivering feedback.

TIME IT WELL

I tend to give feedback pretty much straight away or shortly after a piece of work has been delivered to my desk. I don’t like to wait for 3 months, as most of my projects are quite fast paced so if I sit on feedback it won’t be relevant in 3 months time. Instead I like to address issues as they occur, discuss and move on.

FOCUS ON THE FACTS AND DON’T BE TOO EMOTIONAL

Feedback is, or should be, all about the work or situation and never about the person.

REASSURE

Often times, negative feedback may feel like the end of the world. Particularly if the person on the receiving end is quite junior or not used to criticism. Make sure the person doesn’t feel like a failure or like their career is over. Give an example of when you made a similar mistake. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my career so if I can save someone the headache of having to figure things out by themselves, I would!

GIVE SPECIFIC ADVICE ON HOW THEY CAN ADDRESS THE ISSUE AND IMPROVE

Don’t just say you don’t like something, instead explain your rational, and maybe suggest how they can approach a similar task in the future. That’s the difference between feedback and constructive feedback. The idea here is not to point fingers but rather to acknowledge an issue, resolve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s about growing together.

So there you have it, this is how I handle feedback. I hope these few tips will help you give better and more constructive feedback that people will actually listen to.

How do you handle constructive feedback? Let me know in the comments

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