The Champion

More Often Than Not, Criticism Isn’t Constructive

Contributed by SafetySmart

Have you ever found yourself bothered by a situation and resolved, through gritted teeth, to nip it in the bud then and there? You may tell yourself that you’ll keep your cool. After all, you are just giving some constructive feedback.


But let’s assume the person on the receiving end of your sermon gets defensive and gives you a “yes, but” response. Angry to begin with and now finding yourself challenged, you bite the other person’s head off. How did this conversation go sideways so quickly?

Timing is everything. And your timing stank in this situation. As important as it is to deal with issues promptly, you should have waited until later in the day, after you’d cooled down, to broach the subject.

As a supervisor you are under considerable pressure trying to balance safety with productivity, staff recruiting and training, and other responsibilities. If you are tense and worried, any feedback you are giving may come across as heavy criticism that’s not constructive in the slightest.

If you want a situation to improve, you need to have the other person on board. Here are some tips for giving constructive criticism:

  • If a worker is missing deadlines or not following safety rules, don’t let the situation fester until you conduct a performance review. Deal with problems as they arise.
  • Throw in a positive comment or two. If the person isn’t always on time but is productive and a team player, say so.
  • Be able to give specific examples to back up your concerns.
  • Avoid using words that get others’ backs up. Banish “you always” and “you never” from your vocabulary. For example, instead of saying “You never make your deadlines” say, “We are continuing to have problems with missed deadlines.”
  • Then engage the worker with a question. “What do you think can be done to ensure that no further deadlines are missed?”
  • Don’t do all the talking. Listen to what the other person is saying. Perhaps something you are doing or not doing is contributing to the problem.
  • Pay attention to the person. Don’t stare out the window or check your email while he or she is talking.
  • Don’t store up several issues and attack the person with a barrage of complaints.
  • Ensure that the worker understands what you have said. Ask that person to summarize the issue and what needs to be done to resolve it. Tell the worker you are available to help or answer any questions.
  • Don’t let the situation drop. Plan to have a follow-up conversation soon. This is especially important if the person is making a real effort to do what you have requested.

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