How to Criticize Your Employees

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Scenario: "Dude, we cannot give criticism. That will hurt our employees' feelings. Then, they will hate us. Then, our company will die. Ahhhh!" Yeah, that's how most "nice" entrepreneurs are. And, who can fault them? They mean well. They have good hearts. But, they probably run bad businesses. Why?

How Avoiding Criticism Hurts Your Company

Three ways:
  1. You get mediocre results.

    When you avoid criticism where it's needed, you send subtle signals to your company that shoddy work is fine, accepted, and will be rewarded.
  2. You shatter the employee's potential.

    Rock star companies bring out the absolute best out every employee. The "let's-be-nice-always-cuz-we-want-happy-employees" approach sucks away that potential.
  3. You kill the other employees' determination to kick ass.

    You pay $5 to John who kicked ass. Then, you pay $5 to Ron who did shoddy work. That's akin to avoiding criticism. What does tell John?
Instead of being the "nice guy/gal", be real. That is, give criticism when you need to do it.

"Okay, so I just yell at them when they're doing something wrong?"

Not quite. Being a freakishly crazy dictator who only yells severely drains employee morale. Saying, "Dude, your work %^@%^^ sucked!" doesn't do squat to improve performance. You need something totally different.

So what do you give criticism correctly?

Three ways:
  1. Be straight up -- in the nicest way possible.

    Avoid the "being nice" approach. When you confront the realities of the situation, you can start improving the situation much faster. Sure, you might want to start with a praise, because
    • (1) they most always did something well,
    • (2) you subconsciously send them a signal that you mean well, and
    • (3) you break down their "S/he's-out-to-get-me!" guards -- opening them up to receiving constructive criticism.
  2. Tell them how they can improve.

    Understand that you won't have the secret answer on how they'll improve. They'll need to figure it out themselves. (Remember: Human nature says we all hate to be told what to do.) The key, of course, is to let them choose their own paths to improvement. According to a Dr. Judith Sills, telling someone how they "might" improve instead how they "will" improve sparks their creativity to kick-ass the next time around.
  3. End your criticism with this: "I truly believe you can be a kick-ass superstar."

    And if you don't believe they can be a kick-ass superstar, you've placed them in the wrong position. Badass managers bring out the absolute best in their employees; criticism, then, is the vital ingredient to transforming them from "high school player" to "Michael Jordan". So, always understand why you're giving criticism.
Use this template:

"Billy Bob, I absolutely appreciate your hard work. I'm disappointed in: ______________, because I know you have so much more potential than that. I'm pushing you hard because I believe you can be the greatest at what you do."

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Posted on October 03

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