Giving criticism about unsatisfactory aspects of performance can be one of the most difficult tasks you have to face. It can be difficult because many people equate performance of the job with their competence as a person.

When done badly it will increase the frequency and intensity of what you want to change.

Talking about unsatisfactory aspects of performance can be one of the most difficult tasks you have to face (true both of giving and receiving criticism). It is difficult because many people equate performance in their job with their competence as a person.

You may have had bad experiences in this area, so that now you either,

  • avoid raising the particular criticism, or raise it tentatively
  • work yourself into a state so that you raise the issue in an abrupt or heavy handed way.

In either case the required change in the other person’s performance may not come about.  If it does, it may be accompanied by some undesirable changes, such as:

“OK, if that’s what you want me to do next time I’ll do it….”

(Unsaid ‘….. but don’t expect me to help out next time you’ve got a rush on.’)

We stress that giving criticism is NOT an end in itself, it is a MEANS of achieving “a change in the way a person carries out a particular aspect of the job

You are more likely to achieve this if you make your criticism assertively and this begins by understanding the concept of peoples’ rights, yours and the other person’s.

Balancing Rights

In order to give criticism effectively you need to accept,

Your Rights

  • to have staff work to an agreed standard
  • to change their behaviour to achieve that standard

The other person’s Rights

  • to know the standard that is required
  • to question their behaviour but not their personality


Before the feedback meeting

  1. Check your thinking is correct

“I’m disappointed about the mistakes, but it’s not disastrous. I can raise this in a matter of fact way with Jean.”

  1. Make sure that your criticism is specific i.e. about the behaviour

“Over the last few weeks Jean has failed to put charge codes on the invoice and record changes in customer orders. This has meant we have wasted hours at month end trying to reconcile our figures.”

During the feedback meeting

  1. Introduce the topic and, if appropriate, say WHY you want to raise the issue

“Jean, I’d like to talk to you about some of the invoices you’ve completed this week”

  1. Make your SPECIFIC criticism

“I’ve noticed they do not have the appropriate charge codes that enable final payment. We have had to spend a number of hours at month’s end trying to rectify this.”

  1. Get a RESPONSE to your criticism

‘What’s causing this?’

  1. Ask for SUGGESTIONS to bring about change

“What ideas do you have, how you can avoid…?”

“How can you go about making improvements?”

“What changes need to be made?”

  1. SUMMARISE the suggestions to be actioned

“So let’s agree that next time you’ll….”

“So do you agree that in future you’ll…”

For more detailed information about these ideas and how to deal with difficult personal and work situations contact us at or telephone Conrad or Suzanne Potts on +44 (0)1903 778977