There’s No Such Thing as Constructive Criticism

If it’s criticism, it’s not constructive.

A client fired me, explaining, “You’re not asking the hard questions!”

  • Criticism: the act of passing severe judgment; censure; fault-finding
  • Constructive: promoting further development or advancement

Here’s the litmus test for “constructive” – When I walk away, will she know exactly what to do?

Here’s how to correct others’ incorrect actions, and help them onto the right path:

1. Focus on what you want (speak in future tense) rather than on what the person did wrong (past tense). For example, “David, I want you to be here and ready for work at 8:00,” rather than “David, you’ve been late too much.”

2. Be excruciatingly specific. “Michelle, I want you to email 100% of your day’s patient records to me before you leave work,” rather than “Michelle, you know how important it is to update records on a timely basis.”

3. Ask a question if the person’s failure to perform is not the norm for him: “John, it’s unusual for you to miss something like this. Is something happening that I don’t know about?” Not: “What happened here?!”

We wish the problem would heal itself, but magic like this happens only rarely. Address it constructively. The other person will know exactly what to do, and will likely do it.

Now, on a lighter note:
“Before you criticize someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”

– Jack Handey, American Humorist