How to Criticise Without Being Critical
As a new manager or supervisor you may need to criticise someone else – why? Simple when you bring it back to basics, because they have failed, screwed-up or not performed to the level that was expected, therefore it is your job or role to let them know.
Yes this is normal and happens probably every day in the workplace, but bottom-line, what do you want to happen as a result of the criticism? Do you want the end result to be positive, in other words the person being criticised accepts their down fall and moves on with a positive attitude, therefore how do you criticise without being critical?
Well the answer is not simple, as there are normally emotions involved. As the manager you may be frustrated, angry, because their failure is seen as your failure. But if you approach this person with a temper or an angry demeanour; are you going to get the results expected. Why, you are approaching the situation in which you may not be thinking straight, which may allow you to say something you wish you didn’t.
Giving criticism is a great test of communication skills. If you say it right, you can transform the conversation from an attacking negative message to a positive and motivating experience.
So how do you know what to say, and what will affect the person. Well first I believe you need to understand the person. In other words knowing their preferred communication and decision making process. There are various behavioural profile systems on the market that can deliver this information, for example DISC, Myers-Brigg, Communication Styles, Colour Styles, and Animal Styles.
By identifying the behavioural profile of the person you are about to criticise you can adapt your language as well as the approach you utilise. However, all of the above (Emotional Intelligence) profiling systems required the candidate to complete some form of written quiz, but what if you could identify a person’s preferred communication style and preferred decision making style through observation, , sometimes in as little as 90 seconds.
Written tests have their place and are very popular in business, but they have limitations.
- First, someone has to agree to take the test.
- Second, you have to depend upon the person to provide truthful/accurate answers.
- Third, you can’t make adjustments when the results are off. Some people, for example, have learned how to distort their answers to match a desired profile. Other people don’t test well. And for others, results can be skewed by a bad day or life stresses, which I personally experienced with employees as a Human Resource Manager.
At Alibi Training Australia, we have researched the above problem and now include a “Emotional Intelligence” profiling system into our “Supervisor and People Management” training courses, that is built on observation, a simple but realistic tool that when practiced can have you reading (profiling) people within minutes of meeting them.
Imagine profiling a person and identifying them as having a Communication Style that is, for example: CONFIDENT AND ASSERTIVE, and a Decision Making Style that is: CONVENTIONAL AND CONFIDENT.
Yes we at Alibi Training believe there are two traits you need to look at ‘Communication’ and ‘Performance’. Why, because one can mask the other.
Well back to the profile above, this profile would generally be seen as a strong personality, therefore when confronted, will typically turn to their Assertive Trait to respond. You need to be prepared with facts and hard concrete language; in other words you need a specific strategy when dealing with this type of person, as they won’t back down easily. The higher their assertive, confident and control trait the difficult it will be to criticise without good preparation beforehand.
Do not be hesitant or doubtful, this profile can sense any weakness in your case and will capitalise upon it. Do not except excuses. You may also want to allow them a face-saver if it can be done factually, because in the end this profile wants to come out still looking good, and maybe feel like they have won the conversation in some way.
By “Making Sense of People”, you are preserving the person’s self-esteem; remember you cannot change the way a person acts but you can change the way you interact with them to produce a positive productive outcome, there is no reason why any criticism you have to display, has to be seen as being critical.