Friday, July 11, 2008

"Be Constructive At Work"

Top Five Ways to Dish Out Bitter Truths at the Office

It's tough when you get negative feedback, but imagine how difficult it is to dish it out without hurting anyone's feelings. So how do you criticize someone nicely? I myself have yet to learn to do this. That's why I'm so thankful I'm not the boss.

While criticism is necessary for quality control and to ensure productivity at the office, it could disrupt the work flow when it's taken the wrong way. "We are universally reluctant to trigger the hurt feelings, angry defenses, or counter attacks that criticism so frequently arouses," observes psychologist Judith Sills, author of Excess Baggage: Getting Out of Your Own Way.

To make sure that criticism is truly constructive, Sills lists five ways to deliver negative feedback in the most positive light:

1. Don't be one-sided. You have to pair every negative with a positive. You can say: "You are an amazing problem solver, but you aren't following up with the paper work."

2. Stick to the facts. Give feedback on observable behavior only--don't speculate on internal attitudes. At the very least, wait for or encourage the person in question to tell you what's really causing him or her to turn in less-than-excellent work.

3. Make it clear. You have to be very specific about both the problem and the expected solution: "When you do X, it creates problem Y. Next time, try this..."

4. Go the distance. Extend yourself to maintain the relationship. After being criticized, most people withdraw. Counter that by making friendly conversation.

5. Look for the silver lining. Remember that reward is the most powerful change agent. Point out what's wrong and be heavy-handed with what's working will work in the future.

In light of these tips, Sills adds that you have to make the recipients of criticism understand that they can use the negative feedback as guides to being more efficient or productive.

Moreover, she advises that you have to make them understand that "the more they matter, the more managers will try to polish their strengths and file their rough edges."

Last but not least, keep in mind that courtesy and honesty go a long way when it comes to dishing out criticism. Most people will welcome the truth, no matter how bitter it is--as long as you don't force it down their throat.

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