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It often seems that, in the contemporary workplace, candor is sacrificed for the sake of positivity. Any sort of truth is buried under compliments that may or may not be true, and often, undesirable tendencies go unchanged. Though encouragement is generally seen as positive, it is not necessarily conducive to a productive work environment. Managers should be unafraid to give their employees constructive criticism and strike a balance between positive and negative comments.

Workplace feedback is psychologically proven to be one of the best ways to encourage better productivity, set goals, and promote teamwork. However, it can sometimes be a challenge to fix problems while remaining considerate. It is the responsibility of managers to deliver criticism that improves work performance while not antagonizing subordinates.

Provide solutions:

The traditional way to deliver feedback is the “compliment sandwich,” in which an employee is praised, delivered criticism, and praised again. Though it softens the blow of criticism, it is often not enough to just mention a problem and move on to a positive; good managers will follow criticism with potential solutions and listen to their employee’s point of view. Studies show that employees much prefer to hear feedback from managers that they believe are listening to them, showing that improved communication on both sides is integral to improving performance in the long term.

The way managers approach the subject is also critical. Avoid negative phrases and word any comments as suggestions, encouraging employees to take a certain course of action while implicitly telling them that you know that they can do better.

Establish trust:

Okay, so maybe this is something that takes a while, particularly if a manager is working with a large number of employees, but a previously established comfortable work environment makes giving out criticism infinitely easier; employees are more likely to view it as constructive as opposed to an attack on their abilities.

This goes hand in hand with listening on the manager’s part. Being communicative with employees at all times, not just when problems occur, is the key to building trust.

Be specific:

Generic criticism or compliments will get an employee nowhere. Positive or negative, all feedback should originate from a specific incident. By providing specific examples of behavior and impact, it can help give much needed context that can enable an employee to correct any problems they may be having.

Additionally, when it comes to fixing problems, it always pays to be specific about the results that you’re looking for. Use quantitative measurements to elucidate what you expect out of employees and, as previously mentioned, ensure that they know how to get there.

Remain objective and empathize:

When confronted with a problematic situation, it is important to impart to employees that you are as involved as they are. Avoid placing blame on any particular individual and address how to rectify any mistakes rather than dwelling on them. Blame breeds an environment of distrust and hostility, but honesty, even in the form of negative feedback, can lead to open dialogues about roles, work objectives, and collaboration.

Giving feedback isn’t just about solving problems; it’s about creating a communicative workplace culture. For managers, feedback is the cheapest and one of the most effective methods to combat employee issues. The trick is to balance positive and negative feedback, encouraging proactive self-correction and free dialogue between all parties involved.