Why Criticism is Important in the Workplace | Fora Financial Blog
Why Criticism is Important in the Workplace
May 04, 2018

Why Criticism is Important in the Workplace

Most people are as afraid to give criticism as they are to receive it. This stigma against giving or receiving feedback can lead your business down a dangerous path of setting the status quo bar too low and accepting mediocrity. In The Lost Interview, Steve Jobs describes an analogy of a polishing rock tumbler to giving and receiving constructive criticism. He discusses how putting ugly rocks into a tumbler that uses water, grit, and friction to output polished rocks can be a metaphor for creative teams having meaningful arguments to polish each other’s ideas.

Although constructive criticism within teams is crucial for businesses at every stage, it is especially vital for new businesses to get right. The early stages of a company are often very disorganized, as efficiencies and processes have yet to be established. If your team isn’t collaborating effectively the results will likely reflect this dysfunction, if not magnify it.

Culture Around Criticism?

You should aim to build a company culture that rewards feedback and encourages honest and open discussion by setting the example for your team. Requesting honest feedback from your team and explicitly showing how you’re taking steps to improve can be a great way to get the ball rolling.

For instance, Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor, says she displayed her respect for honest feedback when a colleague mentioned that she interrupts others too frequently. To show that she had taken the criticism seriously, she wore a rubber band around her wrist and instructed her team to snap it whenever she interrupts. Gestures like this can signal how receptive the work environment is to solving problems

How to Make Criticism Constructive

If you’re tasked with giving someone feedback, chances are you’ll garner a less than desirable response. It’s difficult for most people to hear they are underperforming, or even failing in a role, but it’s necessary. The people who progress within their roles will take the feedback to heart and implement a plan to improve. This is why it can be beneficial to brainstorm solutions together and establish a plan towards success.

Once the feedback has been communicated and the plan for improvement is being hashed out, Ensure the goals meet the S.M.A.R.T criteria. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive.

If you like the person you’re criticizing, you’ll naturally be able to balance the negative feedback with praise. Even if you’re praising a small component of their overall job performance, it helps to establish trust that you’re attentive to this person strengths and weaknesses. Use caution when balancing praise with criticism, as the praise may be perceived as insincere and being said to deflect the negativity of the situation.

How to Receive Negative Feedback

As mentioned previously in the post, criticism can be tough to swallow when its directed as you. It takes a high level of maturity, empathy, and confidence to constructively receive criticism. One of the biggest factors of receiving feedback is to make it a conversation, not a lecture. If the person leading the meeting is doing all the talking, it might signal apprehension to humbly receiving feedback. It’s better to discuss the problem and brainstorm a solution together.

The single biggest take away from giving and receiving criticism is to increase situational self-awareness and empathy. Communicating effectively can be easy if you do just that, communicate. A meeting in which one person does all the talking is not a meeting but a lecture, and no one likes to be lectured to.

This visual from GetVoIP features actionable tips you can implement in your next meeting or performance review. If you’re nervous to give criticism, you may find solace in learning that most people find feedback beneficial, even if they don’t appreciate it in the moment.

how to give and receive constructive criticism

Fora Financial

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Drew is a content marketing specialist in San Diego. He loves learning, writing, and all things creative. When not working, you can find him in the ocean, in the kitchen or in a book.