The Dos and Don’ts of Giving Constructive Criticism


Everyone knows that one of the best ways to improve as a business owner is by receiving constructive criticism and adjusting appropriately. In addition, a business thrives when team members receive feedback from their leaders. There are strategies you can use to critique others so that they don’t become defensive or feel devalued but they leave knowing how to improve. To hit that sweet spot, here are a few dos and don’ts of delivering constructive criticism.


  • Come from a place of support: Be clear in your demeanor and language that you’re offering feedback for their own benefit and because you want to help them be their best and improve satisfaction in their role. In the long run, this will help them and your business thrive. Establishing an encouraging atmosphere up front increasing the chance of a positive, productive conversation.

  • Listen: Allow the meeting to be a space for your team member to explain their challenges and weaknesses. Ask questions that will help you understand their perspective too. This will allow you to find a more personal, effective solution for them and give your team member the satisfaction of feeling — and being — heard.

  • Be specific: Be specific about their performance through data. If a customer or client told you they were displeased with your products or services because they were inadequate but offered no specifics, you would have no idea what exactly went wrong and how to fix it. Also, detail how your employee can take steps to improve their performance. Brainstorm concrete actions they can take to do so and set goals to create accountability.

  • Express desire to help: Start and end from a place of support, and do it authentically. Verbally offer support then follow through. When you care about your teammates, workplace atmosphere improves and people feel inspired to do their best. Employees who are engaged and have high well-being are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months, according to Gallup.


  • Be emotional: Don’t become flustered or upset. It will cause your employee to shut down, feel attacked and become immediately defensive, which instantly ruins your chances of having a fruitful discussion. And don’t ever make your criticism a personal attack on someone. Critique problems, not someone’s person, and always come to the table with a level-headed and pragmatic approach.

  • Sandwich: Don’t do what has been called the “sandwich” approach, which is starting with positive feedback, delivering negative feedback then closing out on another positive note. This strategy is deceptive and confusing to your team member. Research shows that when this technique is used, employees actually leave the meeting only taking away the positive feedback. It’s always better to be direct and clear about your intentions and your message to establish trust. 

  • Provide feedback infrequently or too late: Just like with any healthy relationship, you don’t wait until something becomes a major issue to address it by exploding at the other party. When you hold off on feedback you could be allowing smaller obstacles slip through the cracks until they have snowballed into major issues. This increases your chances of unleashing frustration on a team member who had no idea they were performing inadequately. Both will harm your company and both can be easily avoided by frequent touch bases.

Giving valuable feedback was one of the six skills we determined effective business owners possess. Discover what other skills you need to be a good leader in our recent blog post.

Story By: Kris Martins