To optimize the performance of the team, a manager has to let the team members know what is expected of them. The broad guidelines given at the beginning of an assignment may not be enough to ensure a smooth flow. By providing periodic assessments and timely feedback to team members there is a greater likelihood that the objective will be successfully met. If a manager can effectively communicate constructive feedback instead of delivering criticism, then the team members are more likely to become motivated and deliver improved performance.

How does feedback differ from criticism?

Focus

Feedback is often focused on communicating observations about how the work was performed. The recipient is informed about what is expected of their work. This may include an indication about how future performance can be improved

Criticism is often directed towards the person who did the work. If the work has a positive outcome, then the person is praised for it. If the outcome is less than ideal often blame will be laid. As a result of the focus of criticism not being directed towards the issues that comprised the work, addressing those issues and possible areas of improvement are not likely to be discussed.

Objectivity

Feedback is objective and impassionate. It assesses the outcome of an action. If the outcome is negative, possible reasons for this outcome are explored without laying individual blame. The unstated emphasis is that the individual has to assess the cause of the problem and fix it.

Criticism is subjective. A manager will likely express personal opinions on the reason for the poor outcome and will demand that the team member take corrective action. Even if the manager’s judgment is accurate, the effect of criticism is that the individual receiving it may become defensive and disagreeable

Clarity of Purpose

Clarity of purpose is inherent to feedback. The objective of the project, the person’s role in accomplishing it, and how one’s actions can impact the team and the outcome should be clearly stated

Attitude

Feedback is provided with the goal of helping to find a solution to a problem. The result may be an increase in cooperation and goodwill.

Criticism comes across as being judgmental. The recipient may become uncomfortable as a result of being scrutinized. Feelings of self-consciousness and a desire to dissociate with the issue and the person providing the criticism may be evoked.

Outcome

Feedback creates an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas. A further analysis of the situation can lead to self-assessment and self-correction by a team member.

Criticism elicits defensiveness and may cause the opportunity for learning and self-correction to be lost. Emotions can become intensified. Arguments and a breakdown in trust between the provider and recipient of the criticism could result. Personal and professional relationships are likely to be harmed.

Advantages of Feedback over Criticism

When Dale Carnegie said, “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain,” he must have known that providing feedback is far more effective than criticism because:

• It is readily received;
• There is no room for defensiveness and discontent;
• It brings about self-directed changes;
• It increases trust between the manager and the team members;
• It opens up an opportunity for further discussions on courses of action;
• It promotes a collaborative spirit;
• It leads to the empowerment of team members.

A manager’s tendency may be to instinctively react to a problematic situation without regard to if they are providing feedback or criticism. Effective managers have learned to take some time to reflect on the situation and to keep their emotions under control. The result will often be the communication of constructive feedback instead of criticism.

Stitt Feld Handy Group offers training in communication skills, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution for large and small businesses, using the latest adult education techniques. Contact us today to learn more about how to get started.