Giving Criticism Effectively

Giving Criticism Effectively


Research findings indicate that practicing managers in a wide range of organizations and industries view the task of criticizing subordinates–giving them negative feedback–as one of the most distressing (and stressful) tasks they face.


Baron’s studies have found that people exposed to destructive criticism (rather than constructive) tend to suffer such adverse effects as:


  • reduced self efficacy


  • lowered motivation and self-set goals


  • simmering feelings of anger


  • feelings of being treated unfairly


  • increased tendencies to attempt to resolve interpersonal conflicts through head-on confrontation rather than through compromise or collaboration.

The purpose of giving criticism needs to be a Formative process to produce growth and improvement


If the motivation on the part of the one giving the criticism is not

“To help this person improve—than the value of the criticism is strongly diminished


Steps in Giving Effective Criticism


1.          Prepare. 

Use concrete examples.  Cite specific facts and examples


2.          Be calm

Do not engage in criticism when you are emotionally upset or under great stress.  If you do, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to follow an effective approach


3.          Be Specific:

A common error is to use general terms, such as “Your reports aren’t very good,” or “Your research needs to improve 

Rather than “You’ve missed too many report deadlines this year,”  “Directors are complaining that your reports are too long,”

4. Be Considerate

Make your remarks calm and rational–something that’s almost impossible to do when you are upset

5. Deliver it in Private/or in Writing

Criticizing people before others is rarely appropriate and adds to complications that you don’t want 

6. Don’t Assume That You Know the Causes Of Poor Performance:

 Comments like “Your laziness” or your “lack of motivation” are assumptions. Avoid such statements because they are not relevant to the actual cause of the problem.

Don’t be quick to conclude that the causes were internal and thus controllable by the recipient.

In fact, performance on complex tasks is influenced by many factors and only some of these relate to motivation, effort, or ability.

Consider the possibility that external factors play a role.

For example, even the most dedicated researcher can run into unexpected difficulties that he or she cannot control. 

It’s important to try to avoid assuming that you know the causes behind inadequate performance.  In many cases, these are in a gray area, and are best left there! 


7. Avoid Threats:

 If there’s one thing that makes people angry when being criticized it is being threatened, directly or indirectly.

Direct threats like “If you don’t start getting results, you’d better begin looking for another job

8. Focus On the Future, Not The Past: 

While it’s true that we often must understand the past to change the future, where criticism is concerned, it can be a serious blunder to dwell on the past.

Beyond a certain point, rehashing mistakes just increases tension and assures that recipients will spend their time arguing rather than listening.

It is usually more useful to concentrate on where we go from here–on what specific steps can be taken to improve the recipient’s performance. 

After delivering negative feedback:

Thus it usually helps to “touch base” with the recipient several times after expressing criticism.  At that time, you can probe the recipient’s reactions (which often change after the initial shock), level of understanding, and the extent to which the recipient is implementing the agreed plan of action.  Without such follow-ups, it is too easy for individuals to regress to old patterns and attitudes, nullifying the benefit of your hard work in delivering effective criticism. 



#9 from R&D Innovator Volume 1, Number 3          October 1992 

Effective Criticism Made Easy:  Basic Rules for Delivering Negative Feedback to Others
by Robert A. Baron, Ph.D. Dr. Baron is Chairman of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Managerial Policy and Organization Department. 



  1. thank you so much.. i tried to find this answer every where.
    You have helped alot
    thank u mr. genius

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