Almost every one of us has been in a situation where we had to criticize someone’s idea or work because it wasn’t up to the mark without sounding rude or disrespectful. Walking on the thin line of criticizing yet not blowing the person off can be a task, but an important one. Be it your superior or your junior, you will have to tell them if there is something wrong with their work or idea. And in order to not let it go against you, here are a few tips that can help you give constructive criticism at work without sounding like a jerk.
Make Sure Your Criticism Is Constructive
First things first, make sure your criticism at work is constructive. You can’t just go on and pull someone down just because they have made a mistake or their idea is inappropriate. You will have to nicely state why you feel that way and why they should consider your opinion.
There are situations where the person may not realise why you didn’t like their idea and if you choose to criticize them in a derogatory way, they will probably ignore your opinion, or worse, they will take it personally and get offended. Criticism at work can be a little tricky. Even though you believe you are criticising someone, the other person should not feel criticised, at least not in a negative, offensive way.
Repercussions can be serious if the person is superior. It is always recommended to keep your criticism as polite, politically correct, and constructive as possible because, in the end, your reason behind criticising their work is to get a better idea and work quality that inclines with the organization’s reputation and values.
Make It Sound More Like a Discussion Than Criticism
Instead of bluntly criticizing the person, what you can do instead is, state what part of their work or idea you did not like, explain the reason behind your disagreement, and end it with a “what do you think?”. This will make the whole criticizing part more like a discussion and give the other person an opportunity to explain or change.
With a criticism that has a dead-end, the person may not realise what changes you are expecting. They may understand your point but not know what can be done to meet you in the middle. Making it a discussion can help you both understand where you both are coming from and what can be done to bring in a change that is suitable for both of you.
Have Stats and Examples to Support Your Statements
To make a point in front of someone you will have to prove why you feel like their idea or work isn’t up to mark. Depending on the situation, your point, and the area of your work, you will probably require statistics or examples that can help them understand why you are criticising their work.
For instance, if you are to criticise a writer for the quality of their work, what you can do is, proofread their work and mark mistakes for them. Then you can talk to them in person and walk them through their work and probably tell them how they can improve. Criticism at work is all about making the person understand where they are going wrong or what they are lacking.
Offer a Solution and Ask What They Think
It is important to give a solution or at least a better alternative to the idea that you are criticizing. You will be asked for that anyway so it is better to have an idea that covers the pain points or loopholes of the previous idea. You can tell the person why you think their idea is not good, tell them what they can do instead, and then ask them what they think about it because their opinion and point of view matter.
It is extremely important to involve the other person and ask for their opinion and contribution because it is their work before yours and they are responsible for it more than you. And if you want them to consider your point of view, you will have to make it look like a suggestion because you are on the same team.
There’s a Way of Criticising an Idea in the Meeting, Follow That
You will see a lot of people suggesting not to criticize an idea during a meeting, especially if the idea is thrown by your superior. But that is not the right approach in every situation. In a meeting where the superior is open to discussion and is simply stating an idea about what they think and how things can or should be like, you are allowed to voice your opinion.
However, you cannot start pointing out everything that’s wrong with the idea. You don’t have to sugarcoat your opinion either.
How you can criticize an idea in the meeting is, that you can start by stating what you like about the idea and then slide into the “buts and ifs” of it. Then, after clearly stating “what I think might work” suggest a better alternative, and finally, ask the initiator of the idea what they think about it, or if they get your point.
During the whole conversation, you will have to make sure that you don’t come out as loud, disrespectful, rude, or inconsiderate colleague.
Understand that criticism at work is not about proving you are better or the other person is not good enough. It is about working as a leader and helping your team reach your level. For that, you will have to be open to helping people and educating them wherever they fail to understand.
Working in an office can be a little tricky but once you experience a few pitfalls, you learn how to deal with office politics and how the hierarchy works. Nevertheless, working on your own terms is always an option if settling down and getting used to office politics is not an option for you.
What you can do is start your side hustle and later expand it into a full-time business. This way you can create an office environment the way you want and make working in a startup better for other people.
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