Shining 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 them, and how best to receive them.
The Difference Between Constructive and Positive Criticism
Before we dive into our extensive discussion of positive criticism examples, let’s first differentiate between constructive and positive criticism. Contrasting them will help you better understand 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 better, using an alternative approach to the current one. Its suggestions address the issue straight up without delay or generalizations.
On the other hand, positive criticism starts by drawing attention to a positive aspect of the issue rather than going straight for the kill. Doing so increases the chances of employees receiving criticism as you approach them as a just critique that addresses the good and the bad.
7 Best Ways to Give Positive Criticism in the Workplace
Positive criticism can be a powerful tool in any workplace’s social and professional development. 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 how you approach it. The approach determines 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 that performed well. Proceed to work on 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 to address it adequately.
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 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
Don’t do it in a group setting if you want to provide individual feedback. 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 input better and gives them enough time to process the message.
Public feedback displays 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 ensure your employee will 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.
It would be best to allow the employee to explain their side of the story and ask questions regarding the issue and how to fix it. You may even learn 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.
6 Best Ways to Receive Positive Criticism
You 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 to work on improving what needs to be changed efficiently.
Most of us aren’t born with such tolerance; however, reacting with anger or defensiveness upon facing criticism will never achieve any good – especially in a workplace environment.
So, you must train yourself to receive positive criticism with as much tact as possible. After all, such criticism helps you identify your weaknesses to work on them to become more successful. Here are some handy steps for handling positive criticism:
1. 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, the one second that you refrain from doing anything is all it takes for your brain to process the situation. You’ll get a window to prevent a dismissive facial expression or a sharp remark and compose yourself during this moment.
2. 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 and helping you live up to the expectations of your managers and peers.
3. Listen to Understand, Not Retaliate
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). It would be best if you waited to let them share their whole thoughts and focus on understanding their perspective rather than questioning the person’s judgment.
Remember 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.
4. Appreciate the Feedback
The hardest part of receiving criticism is expressing appreciation for it. Your 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.
5. Analyze the Feedback with Questions
Once 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 find 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 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.”
6. Request a Follow-Up Feedback
Hopefully, you’ve reached a point in the conversation where you can agree on the proposed issues. You can wrap things up after you explain your plan for future encounters with similar situations 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.
3 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 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:
Positive Criticism Example 1. Time Management and Deadlines
Almost every business out there requires strict adherence to deadlines and schedules, 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 look at your goals and see how you can better manage your time?”
Positive Criticism Example 2. Absenteeism and Tardiness
The substantial effect of absenteeism and tardiness on the workflow requires no further stress. For example, frequently absent or late employees are most likely having a difficult time self-organizing and 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 employees’ 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. 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.”
Positive Criticism Example 3. 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 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 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?”
3 Constructive Criticism Examples
As briefly mentioned above, both constructive and positive criticism share the goal of achieving results more efficiently. However, constructive criticism aims to show how something can be done better, using an alternative approach to the current one. Its suggestions address the issue straight up without delay or generalizations.
What’s great about constructive criticism, similar to positive feedback, is that it can do the following:
- Improve employee morale
- Reduce confusion regarding expectations and current performance
- Provide a new perspective and give valuable insight to the person receiving feedback
- Positively impact an individual’s behavior
Here are some tips for making feedback constructive:
- Focus on observation and not inference
- Focus on behavior and not the individual
- Focus on things that can be changed
- Provide recommendations and solutions
Constructive Criticism Example 1: Unmotivated Employee
Dianne has been an employee at your company for eight months. Lately, she seems disengaged and unmotivated compared to the rest of the team.
An appropriate constructive criticism response would be:
“Dianne, I have noticed that you don’t seem as motivated to do work as you usually do, and it makes me feel like I am doing something wrong. If there are reasons why you are feeling this way, I would love to talk with you about it. You could be much happier if we meet once a week to check up on everything.”
Constructive Criticism Example 2: Late to Work
Mark has been constantly showing up late for work.
An appropriate constructive criticism response would be:
“When you show up late to work every day, it irritates me because it feels like you are letting our team down. The hours are 9 to 3, and it hurts our team when you show up late to work. What do you think? From now on, I really need you to arrive to work on time and change your behavior.”
Constructive Criticism Example 3: No Initiative
Stacy has recently taken a more back-seat role in her position as a manager.
An appropriate constructive criticism response would be:
“I noticed that you are not taking as much responsibility and initiative as you used to. It makes me feel like I have not done a good job. Did I say or do something that would make you react this way? I would love for you to address any problems or concerns you have.
Infographic on How to Give Positive Criticism
Final Thoughts and More Positive Criticism Resources
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. Despite being well intended, positive criticism examples in the workplace 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.
We hope these winning examples of positive and constructive criticism in the workplace that are helpful in most progressive, leading organizations will become a valuable tool for you. They’re an excellent resource that offers many benefits on the professional level, even though people don’t often recognize them.
Need More Help? Check Out These Book and Video Tips for Delivering Criticism at Work
Below is an informative video and book about positive 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. Please consider buying 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 jam-packed with topics about leading evidence-based recruiting practices, preparing for a Skype or Zoom interview, understanding the Myers Briggs’ 16 personality types, and creating a great LinkedIn profile.