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People management – 10 tips to giving constructive criticism

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People management is an important human resources aspect of being a manager or business owner. Your staff will need only light leadership and HR guidance when performance is good, customers are bountiful and business is raging. But what about when staff performance is below par? The way in which a manager deals with this situation will tell the good managers from the bad. Which camp are you in?

Providing negative feedback will never be a pleasant experience. However, as a manager, it is important to face these difficult situations when they arise and deal with them calmly and productively. The latter is where most managers fail.

The following tips will help you provide constructive criticism and avoid dilemmas in people management from reoccurring:

Tip one: Rein in emotions when in the room. When discussing the problem, keep emotions calm and in check. It is acceptable to express how you feel, but showing it can be detrimental to the working relationship. For instance, if you feel anger at an employee’s actions, say as such, rather than reacting and possibly saying something you may regret.

Tip two: Good criticism shouldn’t be about punishment or chastising. It should be given with the aim of providing an employee perspective and the chance to decide on what to do to rectify the situation.

Tip three: Don’t delay negative criticism. If you are criticising a specific action, ensure it is as close to the event as possible. This curbs the behaviour quickly, ensuring no repeat performances.

Tip four: Privacy is key. Bringing the point forward in front of other colleagues and staff is publicly humiliating for the staff employee and could breed resentment towards you. If possible, meet in an office or meeting room to discuss the situation.

Tip five: Be specific and use examples. If your criticism is poor customer service, for example, mention specific times when this occurred so that the employee has an idea of what is right or wrong with their performance. Generic criticism will only confuse or, worse, be seen as a personal affront to their personality, rather than their behaviour.

Tip six: Use silence to your advantage. Once you’ve expressed your criticism, allow the employee the chance to talk or explain. Be sympathetic and allow them to talk through the poor performance. 

Tip seven: Criticise the action, rather than the person. Let them know that you are disappointed with their performance, rather than them as an employee. Follow this by reaffirming your faith in the employee’s abilities. For example, say ‘you are a good employee and I believe you are more than capable of improving your performance’. 

Tip eight: Employ the ‘compliment sandwich’ conflict-resolution model. That is, two compliments with the criticism wedged between. This approach gains the trust of the employee and dissolves defensiveness which may arise.

Tip nine: Nut out solutions and implement a strategy to resolve the problem. The point of providing negative criticism is to solve the problem, not to punish or blame. Develop goals or a strategy to ensure the poor performance or behaviour does not reoccur.

Tip ten: Once the employee is aware of the situation and a strategy has been put in place, put it behind you. There may be temptation to harbour ill will or micro-manage to ensure no more mistakes, but this is not the best way to motivate or encourage staff. Monitor the employee, as you would any other, and have faith that your constructive criticism was duly noted.

As a manager and business owner, your staff are your means to better business. They will be the key tools in allowing you to work on your business, rather than in your business. Ensure you can be the best leader you can be by managing your human resources in good times and bad and honing your skills in people management.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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