8 Tips on Giving (and Receiving) Professional Criticism

Are you a manager who struggles to provide adequate feedback to your remote workers? Or perhaps you are a worker who can’t stand receiving criticism because it feels like an assault to your character. You might also be an employer who needs a healthy dose of critical feedback, but you don’t want to appear soft. Or you’re the employee who’s too scared to tell your boss when you feel they need to make some improvements.

Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on, the skill of giving and receiving criticism is extremely valuable, especially when working remotely. Read on to learn how to dish it and take it, as well as when it’s your place to do so.

Receiving Constructive Criticism

#1: Ask for It

It’s hard, but it’s often necessary for improvement. The more you ask for feedback, the more you’ll be able to know if you are meeting expectations – and you’ll be able to tweak your actions, workflow, and behaviors more efficiently than if you receive a landslide of criticism all at once in your yearly review. So, send out an email or schedule a brief phone conversation so that you can inquire about your performance.

For managers in particular – set up a system that allows for regular feedback on how you and the company are faring when it comes to employee satisfaction. This way, remote workers under your management have an outlet to give criticism periodically so they don’t have to trouble themselves over when it’s the proper time to do so.

#2: Ask for Some Time to Process

Upon receiving professional criticism, take a moment to reflect on the comments made by your colleague, then politely ask for time to think about each point. Chances are, you won’t be able to process it all at once, especially if there were a great deal of points to be made. After you’ve mulled it over for a bit, – I recommend at least a day or two – don’t hesitate to set up a time to follow up and discuss some in-depth strategies to tackle these issues.

#3: Think of It as an Agent for Growth

If you look at criticism as a means of professional growth, then every bit of feedback is a chance to become a more productive remote worker or manager who leads them. Now, this only works if the criticism you are receiving is fair and grounded; if this is not the case, you might want to consider confronting your colleague if it becomes a persistent problem. Otherwise, you should find yourself feeling more positive and content within your company if you can use critique constructively and allow it to reflect in your efforts to crush goals and improve the business.

#4: Admit When You Are Wrong

While each and every remote worker certainly has their strengths, the only way to truly grow professionally is to admit to our mistakes, which are inevitable. If you receive criticism for a failed project or a missed deadline, for example, simply take credit for it and move on. Even better, spin your failures positively. Use them as examples of risk that can serve as fresh inspiration for collaborative efforts, creativity, and energy – all good things for the betterment of a business.

Giving Constructive Criticism

#1: Don’t Focus on the Person

Focus the criticism on the behavior, not the individual. If you make the process of giving feedback a matter of “whodunnit,” then your colleague is going to walk away from the conversation with hurt feelings, when what you really want is to educate.

Rather than point fingers, instead focus on behaviors you would like to see changed; this is a problem that needs solving, and it requires a team effort. If your colleague feels that they’re more of a liability than an asset, they’ll see no reason to join forces in preventing the issue from cropping up again, lest they get attacked once again.

#2: Ask Questions

Everyone knows what they say about assumptions. So instead, ask your remote workers questions to gauge their true feelings about a project or assignment. Also, be specific in your questions –

“How do you feel you’re doing at your job?”

“At the meeting, what did you mean when you said…?”

Trying to play a guessing game will only result in confusion and possible conflict. But if you give your remote workers this chance to engage and inform, they will find more trust and respect in you for your genuine concern, and in turn, they will be more likely to open up to you in the future.

#3: Don’t Forget to Be Positive and Encouraging

Research shows that remote workers who are encouraged by their managers are more committed to the mission of the organization and are more likely to remain motivated. If you want to give criticism and see improvement, make sure you are also generating just as much positivity for good deeds and accomplishments.

#4: Make Goals Together

Managers – don’t put it all on them. Ask what your remote worker need from you to reach a certain goal and then accomplish them together. You’re only setting up your workers to fail by criticizing them and then pulling a disappearing act the moment they need your help.

Ready to Dish It?

Be gentle and remember your goal when giving constructive feedback. Develop a tough skin and remember not to take helpful feedback personally. Our brains are wired to be defensive in these circumstances, but if both parties are committed to getting better results for the company, then the two of you can work together to develop a healthy and productive environment for discussing issues, encouraging one another, and bringing about change as a team.

Ryan Bridges is a contributing writer and media specialist for the Management Training Institute. He regularly produces content for a variety of career and professional blogs, based around the challenges that come with improving one’s leadership and management skills.