There are se­crets of ‘pos­i­tive crit­i­cism’

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - BUSINESS - By Bob We­in­stein CA­REERS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

In­ef­fec­tive crit­i­cism: “You need to be more of a team player. If you don’t, your fu­ture at XYZ Wid­gets Hap­pi­ness.com is un­cer­tain.” Good crit­i­cism: “Al­though it’s dif­fi­cult work­ing un­der tense dead­lines, we must work closely to­gether so we can achieve what we’ve all worked so hard for.”

Even in the slop­pi­est-man­aged com­pa­nies, bosses have had to de­liver crit­i­cism. And, they al­ways will. Re­gard­less of the in­dus­try or size of a com­pany, bosses must de­liver con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.

It’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for new man­agers. You don’t need an MBA to know that if you crit­i­cize a valu­able em­ployee badly, there’s a good chance this per­son will be work­ing for your com­peti­tor next month.

To avoid a con­fronta­tion, you must cre­ate a “dy­namic of co­op­er­a­tion that doesn’t threaten an em­ployee’s self-es­teem,” ac­cord­ing to

Hen­drie Weisinger, au­thor of The Power of Pos­i­tive Crit­i­cism.

The goal of crit­i­cism in com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially where the chain of com­mand is fuzzy, is to get the other per­son to co­op­er­ate with­out ar­gu­ments and threat­en­ing lan­guage.

Weisinger of­fers four tips for de­liv­er­ing pos­i­tive crit­i­cism:

1. Cre­ate a per­cep­tion of a com­mon goal. Cre­ate the per­cep­tion you have com­mon ground and are mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion, thus min­i­miz­ing the chance of an ar­gu­ment. In­stead of say­ing, “If you don’t move on these sta­tis­tics, I won’t be able to fin­ish the re­port on time,” try say­ing, “We can get the re­port done quickly if you firm up the sta­tis­ti­cal data while I edit the text.”

2. Show how the per­son’s per­for­mance af­fects both of you. Ex­am­ple: in­stead of, “You’re never on time and it makes me look like a fool,” try ex­plain­ing, “It’s im­por­tant for both of us to be at the sales meet­ing on time. If one of us is late, it cre­ates a bad im­pres­sion and we both suf­fer.” The side ben­e­fit of this tac­tic is you’re il­lus­trat­ing how the other per­son will profit from the crit­i­cism.

3. Blame is un­pro­duc­tive. Agree with what an em­ployee is do­ing by shift­ing blame to some­one more sig­nif­i­cant, i.e., an im­por­tant client or in­vestor. Ex­am­ple: in­stead of, “This is ter­ri­ble, you must re­write this re­port or else it will be re­jected by the di­rec­tor,” try coach­ing by say­ing, “I agree with your ap­proach, but the re­al­ity is the di­rec­tor will see things dif­fer­ently. You know how dif­fi­cult they can be.” Un­der­ly­ing this strat­egy is the un­pro­duc­tive as­pect of ex­press­ing blame.

4. Ask per­mis­sion to crit­i­cize. In­stead of telling the other per­son what to do, ask per­mis­sion. In­stead of, “This re­port is too long, it must be rewrit­ten,” try, “May I make a sug­ges­tion? I can show you an eas­ier way to do that.” This is an ef­fec­tive way to over­come the bar­rier of “Don’t tell me what to do.” As soon as the other per­son agrees to ac­cept help, they will be re­cep­tive to crit­i­cism.

It’s good to cre­ate the per­cep­tion you have com­mon ground and are mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion, thus min­i­miz­ing the chance of an ar­gu­ment.

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