At some point in your professional life – perhaps more often than you would like – you will have to offer someone negative feedback on their performance. For many leaders, this is an unenviable task: if the recipient of your criticism does not take it well, you will be responsible for mitigating the emotional damage.

In many cases, you can avoid a big blowout with careful planning and a thoughtful approach to your review. It starts with understanding if your feedback and its method of delivery are truly constructive, or if they may actually cause more harm than good.

According Forbes Coaches Advicehere’s how you can tell the difference between helpful and hurtful reviews, and comment on negative comments in the most effective way possible.

All images courtesy of Forbes Council members.

1. What is the recipient’s perception?

The only differentiating factor between harmful and constructive criticism is the perception of the person receiving it. Your intention is never the differentiator. When giving advice, make sure you consider the other person’s point of view. How might they perceive your criticism? What is the best way to communicate your observations to them? What is your desired outcome? – Indira Jerez, INNERtia project

2. What do you want your comments to achieve?

Before sharing your comments with anyone, ask yourself, “What do I want these comments to achieve?” Set an intention and ask yourself if the tone and method of your feedback will achieve that goal. If the answer is no, adjust. And as a general rule, never provide feedback when you’re feeling a negative feeling (anger, frustration, hurt) because it won’t seem constructive. – Jean Ali Muhlbauer, The Muhlbauer Companies, LLC

3. Is it true, useful and actionable?

One way to anticipate whether your criticism will be helpful or harmful is to ask yourself, “Was it solicited?” If so, proceed with caution. If not, ask yourself what drives your intentions. If it’s true, helpful, and something the person can act on, go ahead and have your say. Telling a colleague that their outfit isn’t flattering and that they don’t have time to change is cruel, even if it’s true. – Julie Colbrese, Hot Coffee Coaching

4. Do you offer a solution rather than a problem?

Remember the phrase “correct, then lead”. This should be the process you use when dealing with employee and customer errors. When someone you coach or employ makes a mistake, show them the problem, the cause of the problem, and how to fix it. Most people point out errors and blame. You must report defects and suggest improvements. – Ryan Stewman, Hardcore Closer LLC

5. Do you have a strong fundamental relationship and a growth mindset?

The valence of the relationship is the lens through which others experience your feedback. When they see you as an ally, the impact will be positive, even if the delivery wasn’t perfect. Also, it is helpful to employ a growth mindset to communicate your belief in their ability to learn and grow. Rather than saying “you’ve failed,” try something like “you’re not there yet,” to imply that they can do it. – Eugene Dilan, Psy.D., DILAN Consulting Group

6. Is your review personal?

Constructive criticism focuses on behavior and impact and links it to the expectation that was defined earlier. It also focuses on new behaviors that can have positive impacts. Harmful reviews often direct the comments to the person and are influenced by the bias of the provider. It’s harmful because it’s usually not associated with a constructive new action the person can take. – Marcy Schwab, Inspired Leadership

7. Is the recipient ready to hear my criticism?

Constructive criticism is knowing when someone is ready to hear the truth and make a change. Harmful criticism means that you are not compassionately assessing the other party’s state of being. Tough love is sometimes necessary to break someone’s system of denial, but unless there is a genuine desire on the other person’s part to make a change, it becomes more harmful than helpful. . – Linda Zander, Super size success

8. Are you empathetic?

Constructive criticism starts with empathy. Understanding and sharing your thoughts and feelings forms the basis of the conversation. Starting with empathy creates trust and opportunities for change. Free yourself from any judgments or assumptions that may cloud your ability to help the other person. Be open to exploring what the other person is sharing with you. – Alan Trivedi, Trivedi coaching and consulting group

9. Do you focus on a desired future?

The most effective feedback is focused on what you want to see rather than what’s wrong. For example, if a colleague is constantly interrupting others in meetings, you probably want them to talk less. Effective feedback might be, “Would you consider listening more carefully to others at our meetings?” This may mean waiting for others to finish their thoughts and asking questions so they feel understood. – Lisa Zigarmi, The Consciousness Project, LLC

10. Who are these reviews really for?

When you give feedback, there’s a sure way to know if it’s helpful or harmful. Are you asking who the comments are for? If the feedback is really valuable to the other person, then it is constructive. If your comments only make you feel better, then the comments are harmful. Let them talk about themselves, not you. – Dean Miles, Bridgepoint Coaching and Strategy Group

11. Am I formulating my comments correctly?

You need to frame your comments properly and come from a place where you care about the person you are giving comments to. It’s difficult if you’ve been bottling it for a while. Instead, share your feedback whenever something you disagree with happens. – Claudio Toyama, Toyama&Co.

12. Why do I have to do this review?

Before speaking, ask yourself why you feel the need to criticize. Are you in a rush to judge with someone you haven’t taken the time to get to know? Have you made mistakes throughout your career? How would you like to receive constructive criticism? If you still feel the need to give advice, ask permission first and invite the person to share advice on a behavior you could improve. – Sheri Nasim, Executive Center of Excellence

13. Do you help get someone from here to there?

Feedback, whether positive or constructive, should move people from one level of performance to another. When checking to see if your review is helpful, be sure to state the facts as you know them and how that affects the end state. For example: “When you use behavior X, it affects person Y in a way Z.” You give someone actionable, factual criticism and start a discussion. – Leila Bulling Towne, The Bulling Towne Group, LLC

About The Author

Related Posts