Dishing out criticism demands delicacy. If you scold rather than encourage others, you risk sabotaging your ability to change their behavior for the better.
The best way to gain cooperation and compliance is to follow a three-step approach when giving critical feedback:
1. Share your observation. Describe a specific action that you witnessed that fell below an acceptable level of performance. By pinpointing the core action that demands attention, you avoid vague criticism that tends to irk others.
Example: “Chris, I noticed at yesterday’s meeting that you did not prepare the slides that you said you’d have ready for us to review.”
2. Highlight why it matters. Rather than say, “That’s unacceptable” or “I’m disappointed in you,” explain why the employee’s failure to act hurts your organization. This underscores the importance of the issue and signals that you’re not just carping about something minor.
Example: “Without your slides, we weren’t in the best position to analyze the situation and make well-informed decisions about it.”
3. Look ahead. Propose corrective action for the future. Communicate your expectations in clear, measurable terms and reinforce accountability.
Example: “At future meetings, I want you to follow through on your commitment to have the latest slides ready with up-to-date information that we can all review when we’re together.”
— Adapted from “How to Criticize Bosses, Colleagues, and Subordinates,” Barbara Brown, www.expressyourselftosuccess.com.