Studies have shown that employees actually do want to hear constructive criticism and often prefer to hear about something constructive instead of being praised. If that’s the case, why do so many managers find it difficult to offer constructive suggestions and often avoid saying anything at all? Anxiety about an employee’s reaction is just one reason. There are, however, ways in which as a manager, you can make the task easier and feel more confident about the process. Here are some suggestions that have been proven to make a difference.

First off, don’t make it personal. Stay away from focusing on the employee and make it about their actions and performance. For example, stress that you really need these meetings to start promptly instead of telling them that they can’t get their act together to show up on time.

Make a point of having a private discussion with the employee. Even if it’s a minor suggestion, no one wants the rest of the office to hear them being corrected, and setting someone up for embarrassment makes the process more stressful. Take the time to explain your thoughts in a calm manner, away from a public setting. This also lets the employee give feedback, setting up an opportunity for constructive dialogue.

Offer specific suggestions and concrete ways that the employee can improve. Don’t just criticize and leave them high and dry. Measurable goals are great so that you can both check in at a later date to see how things have improved. Try to let the employee understand that you want them to succeed and you’re there for support.

End the conversation on a high note. Offer praise on things they’re doing well, their potential, or how they will shine if they really work on your suggestions for improvement. Experts often refer to the “feedback sandwich” surrounding the criticism between two positive comments. But this doesn’t always work because the praise needs to be sincere and not just thrown in for effect.

Keeping these tips in mind can make a huge difference in how you approach employees with constructive criticism and help you move toward a more productive workplace.

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