Examples of Positive Criticism in the Workplace

Smart examples of positive criticism in the workplace are found in most progressive, leading organizations.  A valuable tool, positive criticism is an opportunity for individuals to learn and grow. It’s an excellent resource that offers many benefits on the professional level, even though people don’t often recognize it.

Positive criticism provides employees with insight and brings their attention to issues they may have overlooked or given consideration. It helps create strong bonds at work as it shows that your managers and colleagues care about your success.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at positive criticism examples in the workplace, how to implement, and how best to receive them.

The Difference Between Constructive and Positive Criticism

manager using positive criticism examplesBefore we dive into our extensive discussion of positive criticism examples, let’s first differentiate between constructive and positive criticism. Contrasting them will help you form a better idea of what positive criticism is.

Both constructive and positive criticism share the goal of achieving results more efficiently. However, constructive criticism aims to show how something can be done in a better way, using an alternative approach to the current one. It’s suggestions to address the issue straight up without delay or generalizations.

Positive criticism, on the other hand, starts by drawing attention to a positive aspect of the issue, rather than going straight for the kill. By doing so, you increase the chances of employees well-receiving the criticism as you approach them as a just critique that addresses the good as well as the bad.

Best Ways to Give Positive Criticism in the Workplace

Positive criticism can be a powerful tool in the social and professional development of any workplace. But to harness the full benefits of positive criticism, you need to learn how to appropriately convey it to your employees, peers, or even managers.

Most of the time, the issue isn’t with the criticism itself, but rather the way you approach it. The approach makes the actual difference in how well your associates and colleagues receive it. If your positive criticism isn’t giving you the desired results, try applying the following methods and tips to your technique.

1. The Sandwich Method

An excellent way to approach positive criticism, the sandwich method can be highly effective if you do it right.

Here, you want to start your feedback with a positive remark on something performed well. Proceed to work in your criticism, and then wrap up the input with another positive note on how the receiving person can improve it.

2. Be Specific

Being transparent and specific in your positive criticism is crucial to the growth of employees.  After all, employees need to know what’s wrong so they can adequately address it.

To achieve the best results from positive criticism, let your employees know what the issues are by giving them specific illustrations of these questionable actions and behaviors. Be sure to get to the point quickly to avoid confusing the employee.

3. Don’t Make It Personal

When providing positive criticism, it’s best to focus on the action, not the person. Focusing on action means avoiding using “you” in a negative context.

For example, instead of saying “you did the report poorly,” reframe the sentence to become action-oriented such as “the report could be better with more sources.” Similarly, “you’re disorganized” can be rephrased into “your work can be better structured.”

The objective approach keeps you from assuming the person and allows you to address the issue together with your employee, so they don’t feel personally incompetent.

4. Avoid Surprises

Always let your employee know that you’ll be giving them feedback beforehand, which means scheduling a meeting in advance to give employees a chance to prepare.

A feedback session without notice may catch employees off guard, causing them to feel overwhelmed.

5. Maintain Privacy

If you want to provide individual feedback, don’t do it in a group setting. A vital aspect of giving positive criticism is not to make the employee feel singled out. Scheduling a private meeting allows employees to receive your feedback better and gives them enough time to process the message.

Public displays of feedback defeat the purpose of positive criticism and may lead to destructive criticism.

6. Hold a Conversation

Positive criticism is a fantastic opportunity to coach and guide employees in the workplace. To make sure your employee is going to fully understand the points you’re trying to convey and how they can improve, the feedback needs to be in the form of a dialogue.

You should allow the employee to explain their side of the story and ask questions regarding the issue and how to fix it. You may even end up learning some information that’ll help you provide tailored feedback and advice.

7. Address Actionable Issues Only

You can’t expect to change something that’s merely unchangeable – this will only lead to frustration on both sides. Instead of discussing unactionable personal traits, focus your positive criticism on matters that can be improved.

For example, if there’s an issue regarding interacting with customers, point out better responses or actions that your employee could’ve done. Also, if paperwork isn’t the employee’s strongest suit, discuss how they can improve formatting and wording.

Best Ways to Receive Positive Criticism

employee receiving constructive criticismYou may be able to provide positive criticism like a professional, but what if you’re on the receiving end of things? You should be able to graciously accept such criticism so you can efficiently work on improving what needs to be changed.

Most of us aren’t born with such tolerance; however, reacting with anger or defensiveness upon facing criticism is never going to achieve any good – especially in a workplace environment.

So, you need to train yourself on receiving positive criticism with as much tact as possible. After all, such criticism helps you identify your weaknesses so you can work on them to become more successful. Here are some handy steps for handling positive criticism:

Suppress your Initial Reaction

You may not expect this, but stopping yourself from reacting at the first sign of criticism is a vital step to gracious receiving.

As little as it seems, but the one second that you refrain from doing anything is all that it takes for your brain to process the situation at hand. During this moment, you’ll get a window to prevent a dismissive facial expression or a sharp remark and compose yourself.

Recall the Benefits of Getting Feedback

When you stop yourself from rushing into a reaction, you’re also allowing yourself the time to remember the benefits of receiving positive criticism. These benefits include improving your work productivity, skills, and relationships, as well as helping you live up to the expectations of your managers and peers.

Listen to Understand, Not Retaliate

By now, you should be well in control of your reaction as you recall the advantages of receiving feedback.

From here, you can engage in a productive conversation where you carefully listen to fully understand what the person is trying to tell you (as opposed to interrupting them to retaliate). You should wait to let them share their whole thoughts and focus on understanding their perspective, rather than questioning the person’s judgment.

Keep in mind that this person may be nervous about criticizing you, even when it’s positive. So try and give the benefit of the doubt and work with them towards the greater good for yourself.

Appreciate the Feedback

The hardest part of receiving criticism is expressing appreciation for it. Your support for the feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with the person’s assessment. Still, it does show the professional side of your work personality as you acknowledge the person’s effort to evaluate you and share their feedback.

The best way to go about appreciation is by thanking them for sharing their feedback while holding eye contact. Be deliberate with your gratitude, and don’t just mumble it.

Analyze the Feedback with Questions

employer giving positive criticism feedback examplesOnce you’ve expressed your appreciation for the person’s positive criticism, it’s time for you to process their feedback fully. To achieve this, you need to seek more clarity and share your perspective on the matters brought forward by the person.

Asking questions is the easiest and fastest way to get to the root of the proposed issues and possibly finding solutions to resolve them. Otherwise, engaging in a heated debate can get messy, comprising your position in the workplace.

Let’s say your manager is discussing a report that was missing a couple of sources. You can deconstruct their positive criticism by applying the following tips:

  • Ask for specific examples: “I was a bit distracted, but can you highlight sections that require sources?”
  • Acknowledge the specific parts of the feedback: “You’re right that it needed better formatting, and I later fixed this issue.”
  • Try to find out if this is a recurring problem or a one-time mistake: “Have you noticed any other reports of mine also lacking sources?”
  • The person giving the feedback should have a few ideas on how you can address the issue, so seek out their insight: “I’d love to know your suggestions on how I can better handle this later on.”

Request a Follow-Up Feedback

Hopefully, you’ve reached a point in the conversation where you can agree on the proposed issues. After you explain your plan for future encounters with similar situations, you can wrap things up by thanking the person and moving on.

Sometimes, however, you’ll need to ask for a follow-up meeting to get approval on upcoming steps or to inquire about further information. Requesting a separate meeting is excellent, especially if you’re dealing with issues of a more significant proportion.

Examples of Positive Critique

Let’s get real. It’s one thing to read about positive criticism and how you can successfully reinforce it in the workplace, but it’s a whole different game trying to apply all that you read in real-life scenarios. Employee feedback can be uncomfortable for all parties involved.

To help managers better navigate such sensitive dialogues and keep the frustration to a minimum, here are a few positive criticism examples to review:

Time Management and Deadlines

Almost every business out there requires strict adherence to deadlines and schedules, and so, time management and deadlines issues are probably the most frustrating ones.

Such problems can indicate disorganization or exaggerated ambition. Either way, you should address this as an opportunity for professional development.

  • “I’m always happy with the work you deliver, but I can’t help but notice this is the third time you asked for an extension. How about we take a look at your goals and see how you can better manage your time?”

Absenteeism and Tardiness

The substantial effect of absenteeism and tardiness on the workflow requires no further stressing. When it comes to employees who are frequently absent or late, they’re most likely having a difficult time self-organizing, and they may already feel embarrassed about it. So, you want to avoid focusing your feedback on the employee as the problem.

Instead, address the issue of tardiness or absenteeism itself and how it affects the employee’s ability to complete their daily tasks efficiently.

  • “So I noticed you didn’t attend our last couple of morning meetings, and I’m worried that you may have missed some important information because of it. Your absence will make it difficult for you and your colleagues to sync up. I think it’s a good idea if we go over what you missed now, then we can discuss a plan together to prevent this from happening in the future.’

Speaking Over Others

An employee who often speaks over others in meetings may come off as rude, but they may be doing this out of passion or as a reflection of leadership qualities. In this case, positive criticism indicates that you appeal to their excitement when delivering your feedback.

  • “I can see you’re excited about the project, but I noticed you tend to speak over your colleagues without realizing it. Your interruption of their thoughts leaves them no room to present their ideas, which happened today. Did you notice it as well?”

Final Thoughts and More Positive Criticism Resources

Positive criticism examples in the workplace, despite being well intended, can still be equally tricky to deliver or receive. But just like many things in life, thorough research combined with practice can help you master the art of providing and dealing with positive critique.  Below are an informative video and book about positive criticism.

Video: How to Deal with Criticism

Book: The Power of Positive Criticism

From the author:

  • This empowering book helps readers take the sting out of criticism–and transform it from a destructive, demoralizing disaster into an energizing, educating experience that builds relationships and increases individual and organizational success.

Buy the book here.

Thanks for visiting and learning about positive criticism examples in the workplace.  While here, you may be interested in our career development blog that’s jam-packed with topics about leading evidence-based recruiting practices, preparing for a Skype or Zoom interview, understanding the Myer Briggs’ 16 personality types, and how to create a great LinkedIn profile.


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