By Florence Stone
Its been a tough day. Youve been working on a report,
only to be interrupted, then interrupted in completing these tasks by
further interruptions. As you review some figures, you see an obvious
mistake by one of your staff members. Exhausted from a hard day, you walk
over to the employee to show him the mistake. But in a few minutes you
are shouting at him, letting everyone within earshot hear all about how
incompetent you think he is.
Criticism or feedback? Clearly it is criticism, and
since you were blunt and brutal, it qualifies as verbal abuse. Feedback,
on the other hand, is a calm discussion about how work was done and, if
needed, could have been done better.
Some managers use the term constructive criticism
in place of the word feedback, but criticism is criticism is criticism.
By its nature, it isnt constructive. Certainly, if you tell an employee,
You are never on time. This is really irresponsible. Unless you get your
act together, you will be gone from here, isnt constructive. It puts
cracks in the foundations of any team you are building.
Jenny Rogers, author of Influencing People, points
out some responses from employees on the receiving end of such criticism:
- He made me feel like a stupid, two-year-old child.
- I felt really frightened.
- I wondered whether he would follow up on his threat.
- I wanted revenge IMMEDIATELY!
- I answered back I didnt care about the consequences. I thought,
You can wave goodbye to any thought of loyalty whatsoever!
Rogers describes some of the differences between feedback
Feedback is designed to improve performance, whereas
criticism is too often a means of unloading anger. Delivery often reflects
this. Most important, whereas feedback is tough talk about an issue, criticism
too frequently is tough talk about the person. Further, feedback is a
form of coaching in which there is a search for underlying causes and
solutions, while criticism is solely finger-pointing and a search for
Perfecting feedback skills is comparable to perfecting
coaching skills. So if you want to improve the quality of your feedback:
Give it as close to the incident as possible, good
and bad. That means praise should be offered as soon as it is due; likewise,
performance problems should be addressed once evident to quote Roebuck,
this nips 'bad habits' in the bud.
Be specific, and discuss not only the behavior, but
the impact of the behavior on work output and co-worker performance. Look
for opportunities to offer positive feedback. Employees need to receive
good feedback as well as negative feedback. Deliver feedback in small
bites rather than one huge meal.
Florence Stone is Director of Membership Programs at AMA and is responsible
for content on MWorld. She is the author of several books, including Coaching,
Counseling & Mentoring.