How to deal with workplace conflicts - Develop your personality and business skills.
How to Criticize a Colleague's Work
There will be times in a work environment where you may be forced to criticize a colleague's work. Learning to do this in a positive manner is necessary if you want to remain friends with that person. Even if you don't value the friendship, you still want to remain cordial so that future discussions and interactions will result in a positive outcome.
Preparing for the Conversation
Examine your motivation.Only provide feedback if you are truly trying to help your coworker and improve your work product. If you are criticizing because you do not like the person, are frustrated, or are stressed, keep your criticisms to yourself. If you are not criticizing someone for the right reasons, try talking to a friend or family member so you can vent.
- Feedback should only be given for a specific purpose not just for the sake of doing it.
Decide what outcome you would like to see.Once you identify a specific issue, think about the changes that need to be made and what can be done to achieve them. You are much more likely to see changes if you have a proposed outcome. The criticism you give should be a learning experience for your coworker.
- If the issue was a late report, you may think of ways to increase efficiency such as setting small milestones and breaking down the project into multiple reports. This is much more helpful than saying your report was late, you need to work faster.
Choose the right time and the right place when approaching a colleague with criticisms.You don't want to confront a work colleague in front of others, so pick somewhere private. Additionally, you don't want to criticize him if he is having a bad day already. He may be in defensive mode, in which case he will not be open to any form of suggestion, especially a criticism.
- If the person is about to finish a project or is preparing for a presentation, wait until they are finished before you criticize their work. Your feedback is not helpful at this time and will not change the outcome of the work.
Delivering Your Criticism
Focus on the task.Criticism should be about the situation and not your personal feelings about your coworker or the person’s character. If you are dealing with a coworker that you are not too fond of, think of how you would address the situation with a different coworker. Using a passive voice instead of an active voice can help you focus on the situation instead of the person as well.
- For example, you would say, “The project had a lot of typos and errors. It seems like it was completed in a rush,” instead of “You are unorganized and careless.”
- Avoid starting any criticism with “You did/didn’t” or “You are.”
Use the sandwich method.In this method, you place the criticism in between positive feedback. This will help your coworker be more receptive to the criticism. This is also called the Positive-Improvement-Positive (PIP) method.
- Start with a strength. If you are discussing a specific piece of work, talk about what was good about the work.
- Discuss the things that you did not like and the areas that need improvement.
- End the conversation by reiterating the strengths you mentioned and the positive outcomes that will happen if your coworker makes the suggested changes.
- You may say, "The paper had clear writing and a lot of good content, but it could benefit from some reorganization. If you make the organizational changes, the paper will be even stronger. You will turn a good paper into a great paper."
Be specific about your concerns.A specific concern is much easier to address than a general statement. Being specific also forces you to focus on the issue at hand and not bring up complaints that you have been thinking about for a long time. General statements may also make your colleague feel that you are nitpicking without reason.
- For example, if your coworker is always late, talk to your coworker about a specific time they were late instead of simply saying, “You’re always late.” You may say, "I noticed that you were late to our team meeting this morning, is everything okay?"
- A specific example of a problem will also prevent your coworker from denying the behavior that you are criticizing.
Watch your tone.Try to be as polite and friendly as possible. Even if what you are saying is true, the wrong tone can make the conversation go badly. Avoid being sarcastic, condescending, angry, or aggressive. Remain calm when discussing your issues with your colleague. The last thing you want is to have a heated discussion that will more likely make you both defensive. Angry discussions will close all avenues of future dialogue and make the work place a negative environment.
- Instead of sarcastically criticizing a presentation by saying, "Isn't it terrible when someone can't speak clearly and get their point across?" You may say, "I get nervous when I have to present and mumble sometimes. Does this ever happen to you?"
- The wrong tone will cause the colleague to become defensive and resentful, and the outcome of your discussion will be negative.
- If you are experiencing some negative emotions, smile before you have the conversation. It is easier to be positive when you smile.
Offer suggestions on how to improve your colleague's work.This way your colleague will see that you are trying to help and that you are not just on a rampage to tear their work apart.Additionally, your coworker will recognize that your interests are in making sure that he succeeds also and that you are all working together for a positive outcome.
- You can also say, “Everyone makes mistake,” or “I understand the choice you made.” Even if you have not made the same mistake, this will keep your coworker from feeling as upset and becoming unmotivated.
- Your coworker needs to know that you understand them and are on their side.
- You may say, "I completely understand why you turned in that assignment late. I get overwhelmed at times and it's hard to prioritize. Next time let me know that you're super busy. We can figure something out together."
Allow your coworker to speak.Listen to your coworker’s explanation and point of view. Also ask your coworker what they could have done differently and what do they need to correct their work in the future. This turns criticism into a collaborative project. Your coworker may also be more receptive to the criticism if they are included in the problem solving process.
- Be open to any feedback that your coworker provides. You may learn something.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
Do not overload your coworker with feedback.Focus on two or three specific points. Covering too many topics will confuse your coworker and can be overwhelming. Too much criticism can also hurt morale and be discouraging.
- It easier to make changes when there are only a few points to address.
Give your coworker time to change.Change does not happen overnight. Once you criticize your coworker, give them an opportunity to put the changes in place. Allow your coworker to work on similar projects where they can demonstrate what they have learned.
- Encourage your coworker when they tackle similar projects that they have received previous feedback on. This shows that you trust them and believe in them.
Do not make assumptions about your coworker.Your coworker may have done badly on a presentation or turned something in late. Do not assume that you know the reasons for this behavior. If you make assumptions, you are less likely to be constructive and fair when you talk to your coworker.
- For example, if your coworker did poorly on a presentation, you may assume that they were nervous or did not know what they were doing. However, your coworker could be dealing with personal issues or did not have time to prepare because of other assigned projects.
- Making assumptions may also cause you to suggest improvements that do not address the root problem.
- Approach criticism with the facts only.
Video: How to handle Criticism Gracefully - BK Shivani - Being Love
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