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Business Etiquette: 5 Tips to Turning Negative Feedback Into Constructive Criticism

When an evaluation is delivered with thought and professionalism, it can turn an uncomfortable conversation into one that generates positive results and genuine respect.
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It's inevitable; as a supervisor, it is part of your job description to regularly critique your employee's job performance -- both good and bad. When an evaluation is delivered with thought and professionalism, it can turn an uncomfortable conversation into one that generates positive results and genuine respect. On the other hand, a poorly delivered message may potentially lead to short term damage and long term harm. Here are five tips to turning negative feedback into constructive criticism:

  • Focus on the action - not the person. Effective feedback isn't about pointing out character flaws, but about discussing issues that need improvement. It's the difference between saying, "You have no organizational skills and it showed in your presentation" versus, "It was clear you were struggling to keep the audience's attention on your report this morning, and I have some suggestions I'd like to discuss with you." Keep the attention on the act, not the individual.

  • Start off the conversation with a positive comment. Begin by pointing out your employee's strengths and what is currently working well. Follow with the areas in need of immediate improvement, and what needs to happen next in order to move forward. For example, "Cindy, thank you for taking the minutes in such great detail at our last meeting. The content was well documented. As I read through it, however, I noticed multiple typos, including the misspelling of some of the attendees' names. Attention to detail is of the utmost importance as these minutes do go out to our board members and fellow participants. While I understand our meetings are fast and furious, giving the final draft a concise review to ensure it is error-free is imperative."
  • Be specific. The purpose of giving feedback is to help the person improve, so avoid giving vague or general advice. Be clear on what you'd like to see. Example: "This report needs work" doesn't give much direction. Give specific examples so your employee is clear on where they need to improve and make corrections; "The introduction is strong, but you need to build the case for our product with more statistics and at least two specific case studies."
  • Provide assistance through additional training. There are many training options that will give your employee the tools needed to succeed. Whether you choose to reinforce their skills by additional in-house training, signing them up for a specific webinar or encouraging them to take an online course, you are sending a clear message that you are invested in your employee's professional growth.
  • Follow up. Give your employee ample time to make adjustments and don't hesitate to follow up to ensure they are going in the direction of your expectations. Participating in your employee's success is the mark of a good leader. When you see improvement, don't hesitate to acknowledge their efforts. Praise is a powerful motivator and encourages more of the same.
  • For more business etiquette tips, visit my blog, connect with me here on the Huffington Post, follow me on Pinterest and "like" me on Facebook at Protocol School of Texas.

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