Constructive criticism of an employee
To learn how to constructively criticize an employee’s job performance involves the skills of tact, understanding and patience. As a manager, you must adopt ways to both boost morale and to solve the problem.
If someone on your staff is having trouble setting priorities, meeting deadlines or accomplishing tasks, chances are that he or she is aware of the problem. No one likes to do below average work, but your employee may not know how to solve their dilemma and may even be reluctant to approach you with an admission of their shortcomings. Thus, you must be able to see the situation clearly, decide what must be done, and then meet with the employee for constructive, improvement-oriented, criticism that results in a positive solution.
The following tips will enable you to help, instead of hinder, the under-achieving employee:
■ Talk about the good before the bad. Stress positive aspects of performance. Does this employee always have projects completed a week early? Mention your satisfaction with their competence before you discuss their difficulty in prioritizing the most urgent tasks. If an employee is great at compiling statistical data and research information but has a tough time dealing with clients in person, tell them first how much you value their analytical mind and ability and then discuss methods to enhance their interpersonal skills.
■ Don’t get personal. If your boss insulted you, how would you react? Most likely you would be defensive, or even worse, you might resign. You cannot belittle a person’s character and expect that to be a realistic solution to the problem. Criticizing in the workplace does not mean assassinating an employee’s character; it means finding ways to increase productivity and efficiency while maintaining their positive feelings of self worth.
■ Get to the point. Focus on the employee’s particular problem and offer objective suggestions for solutions. Let the employee know what is wrong but be specific in pointing out what needs to be done. Offer guidance by discussing the specific improvements you want and bringing errors to attention. By taking the time to ensure your employee knows exactly what is expected from them, you save time and possible confusion down the road.
■ Forget about threats. Lambasting an employee’s performance results in zero improvement. You cannot force employees to do better; they have to want to improve. With only your subtle yet directed guidance can this be accomplished. Let the employee find a solution they like, but that is mutually beneficial. Sometimes, just pointing out a problem is all it takes. But if your involvement is necessary, get your employee’s feedback as to what they think will work best for them.
■ Express confidence. Tell your employee that you know they will be able to improve their performance. Your good faith in their abilities will be felt and you will find that most employees will live up to your expectations.
■ Check progress periodically. A good manager keeps in touch with his or her people on a regular basis, especially if a staff member has needed assistance. Employees appreciate sincere interest.