Perspectives

Why constructive criticism isn’t working in your business

Article by Maxine Van Zijl | PS Social Media Manager
Artwork by Karla Kelder | PS Digital Designer

In workplace cultures based on transparency and learning, one of the most important things you can do is ensure you and your staff have the ability to give and receive constructive feedback. However, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach because every individual comes with their own temperament and personality.

For instance, you can enter a feedback session with a great attitude, logical reasoning and actionable outcomes, but if you don’t understand the psychology of the recipient and how that may impact your feedback, you’re likely going to miss the mark.

Here are a handful of things to consider before providing constructive feedback:

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In feedback we trust.

There is a saying that goes, “Don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice.” This happens quite naturally in working environments where leaders/managers don’t have the respect of their teams.

Naturally, people don’t separate feedback from the person delivering it. If your team doesn’t see you as a credible source of knowledge and expertise, or if you have poor relationships with them in general, your feedback sessions aren’t going to land.

For constructive feedback to work, your team needs to trust that you have their best interests in mind and that your primary goal is to improve performance for the greater good of the team and business.

Confidence loves the negatives.

Psychologically, people who are more confident and have strong self-esteem are more inclined to respond well to constructive criticism. But these are two very challenging things to help another person achieve when you’re only in control of the work environment.

Interestingly enough, feedback sessions can end up being the best conduit for confidence because what makes constructive criticism good is that it includes strong examples and actionable outcomes. If the receiver of your feedback doesn’t leave the session with a clear understanding of what went wrong and how to fix it, you can imagine how quickly the dreaded imposter syndrome might kick in.

Although we aren’t able to support our staff 24/7, we still have the power to leave a positive impact in the workplace. For team members whom you feel require extra support, you can set up regular check-ins to ensure improvements are achieved, or be available to help them when they need it. And don’t forget to praise their efforts!

People know their pain points.

We might provide constructive feedback with the assumption that the recipient isn’t aware of the problem, but on most occasions, your staff will be aware of the issue but might not know how to respond or improve.

In cases like this, we see how important regular feedback sessions are. If you have team members who are aware of their pain points but aren’t addressing them with you, it’s up to you to ensure they feel confident in bringing their shortcomings to your attention.

As mentioned, the best constructive criticism focuses on positivity, reasoning and actionable outcomes. These elements foster trust and comfort in transparency, and thus, will mean your team is more inclined to discuss their pain points with you. 

Great outcomes are created by good listeners.

Just as you have expectations of your team, they too have expectations of you. If we’re talking about building trust and confidence, what your team needs is a leader with great listening skills; someone who is willing to workshop ideas rather than dictate them.

Good constructive criticism isn’t just about providing advice and guidance. It’s about having open conversations about the feedback, allowing space for pushback and establishing how improvements can be achieved. The more time you spend listening equates to a greater sense of empowerment and appreciation, especially in typically uncomfortable situations.

At the end of the day, you need to ensure the recipient completely understands the feedback, agrees with it and buys into the course of action. Without that, you’re unlikely to see the results you had hoped for.

To conclude…

You might spend hours doing your research, putting together a great review session and making sure you have considered every element. But your efforts won’t bear fruit if you don’t listen, your team doesn't trust you, or they don’t have the confidence to receive feedback.

At Platinum Seed, we’ve had first-hand experience with the impact of constructive criticism. It isn’t always easy, especially within the marketing environment, but what we’ve built is an ecosystem of trust and transparency.

While we have, and are, benefiting from one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools for improving performance, so are our clients. With our ability to communicate, share ideas, discuss strategies and agree or disagree, we’ve been able to create brand adventures that truly make a difference.