ways to give constructive criticism at work

8 Effective Ways to Give Constructive Criticism at Work

Some people don’t respond well to criticism. This is mainly because we prefer to be praised for our strengths and not criticized for our weaknesses. In this context, the question arises: how do we make constructive criticism without discouraging the person? 

This question is one of many that will be answered during this article, right after we list the 8 Effective Ways to Give Constructive Criticism at Work

  • Describe the situation
  • Talk about how it affected you.
  • Be empathetic
  • Define a guide plan
  • Speak of the positive points first only then mention the critique
  • Encourage improvement
  • Do not raise your voice.
  • Be an active listener.

8 Effective Ways to Give Constructive Criticism at Work

Describe the Situation

Say honestly that you want to talk about a situation that was embarrassing, sad, or describes what it generated. Speak step-by-step first of the subject of the conversation and how it has been dealing with it.

  • We may want to understand it as feedback aim to encourage the person to improve, strengthen and develop skills;
  • The term Criticism comes from the Greek ckritike, which means “thorough appreciation” what it means purification process;
  • People say that the word originates in the practice of purifying the gold: it is to melt (destroy) the raw and natural ore, to remove its impurities, to take advantage only of the purified part so that the ore acquires value.

Talk About How the Situation Affects You

Criticism should be a tool for development, not punishment, which has a foundation and will help us in personal and professional development. When criticizing somebody, we should talk first about how some specific action affects other people and us.

If we point fingers, we have more chances of the person we are trying to talk to shut down and understand it as some form of argument. 

Our emotional state can impact the level of empathy we feel, so mentioning how a situation has made us think makes the person more open to listening and understanding. In other words, it changes the way your brain reacts to other people’s pain.


  • Be honest and genuine;
  • Explain using words such as I felt, it made me understand like;

Be Empathetic

Brain mapping reveals that we are less sympathetic to those who are not in our immediate social circle with a lack of empathy. 

There’s an excellent book called Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, which explains all the research behind our natural empathy.

Unfortunately, not all people have tremendous natural empathy; some experience great genuine compassion and can identify how someone feels just by looking at them. However, don’t worry; there are ways to develop our empathy when we’re not naturally prone to handling it.

Recommended Article: How to Develop Empathy?


  • If we want to understand the emotions of others, we need to understand ourselves first. Self-knowledge is the way to empathy;
  • Please get to know the personality of people you work with this, and we can better understand how to engage the person and serve them in a way connected to their emotional needs and goals.

Define a Plan to Help Improve the Situation

It would be great to ask ourselves first of all questions that will help us not lose sight of the purpose of the conversation and the relevance of everything we want to mention.


  • Be aware of the context when the problem happened;
  • Prefer talking in private or having a couple of cups of coffee and toasts;

Recommended Article: Top Interpersonal Skills for Performance Reviews

Use the Sandwich Feedback Technique (Sweet, Bitter, then Sweet)

People love to hear praises for their achievements or features and often dislike being criticized.  One of the most exercised functions in any human being’s life is criticism (pointing fingers); we cultivate the habit of pointing mistakes, seeing faults, and discovering flaws.

However, at work, we need to be more assertive and upfront with feedback to our co-workers, as much as it looks like it’s BAD doing so…know that keeping them in the dark is WORSE.


  • Mention the good first, then the bad, then finish with the good and asking for their feedback on what you just said
  • Be aware of the benefits that once this person has done for you or others;
  • Try to see the potential of nocive behaviors

Encourage improvement

Motivation is an essential component for people to initiate and maintain healthy behaviors or prevent harmful behavior because motivation indicates a commitment to desirable behavior or the likelihood that the person starts and keeps this behavior.

Respect the rhythm of the person, establishing a relationship of acceptance and trust; when we seek to understand (does not mean agreeing with) the point of view of the person, their needs, values and identify resistances (what they avoid, disagree with, or do not want to talk).                                               

It is essential to clarify that you are open to talk about the problem and change when the person finds it necessary.


  • Encourage the person to express their reasons for changing and to identify barriers or solutions that interfere with change;
  • Listen to the person and recognize its evolution (recognition of the benefits gained when noticing), demonstrate appreciation and empathy, and understanding.

Do Not Raise Your Voice

Pay attention to the tone of your speech. Try not to sound impolite or even aggressive and, of course, listen carefully to the responses and observations of the collaborator. After all, no one is the owner of reason, and the conversation tends to be much more productive if they both put their points of view.

Ways to Give Constructive Criticism at Work

Recommended Article: 20 Good Ways to Give and Receive Feedback


  • Prepare for delivering constructive feedback, think it through first, don’t just say whatever you feel like saying, as the objective is not hurting the other person
  • Do not be driven by anger; it will make your tone sound like a threat or may start a fight;
  • Speak with patience and understanding, and you will not need to shout.

Be an Active Listener

Remain open to receiving the answers that the co-worker or employee will give you after the feedback. They may contain important information and uncover scenarios you haven’t noticed before. This way, you can reevaluate your opinions about people and processes.


  • Listen to podcasts that talk about a subject that you like;
  • Watch more documentaries or series;
  • Try not to anticipate what the speaker is going through even when it is obvious;
  • Don’t listen to reply, listen to Understand!


When we criticize constructively, we do not want to lower the other person’s self-esteem, or humiliate them; we wish for an attitude or weakness to be addressed or softened for the sake of a goal.

Within the space of a company, criticism is an essential part of the learning process of employees. Thus, they can adjust their behavior and achieve the goals outlined.

Practical, constructive criticism has the power to correct attitudes, improve the way you work, and help develop your personal growth and professional evolution.

Reference and Further Reading

How to be Awesome at Your Job. 486: How to Build Powerful Relationships, Better with Dave Stachowiak (Host of the coaching for leader’s podcast). Google Podcast.

Dealing with Criticism | SkillsYouNeed

Forbes. CASTRILLON, Caroline. 5 Healthy Ways to Deal with Criticism at Work

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