Work in IT

What to do when you see that a colleague is struggling with working on a project? Give your remarks in a way that is beneficial to the entire team.

In one of the previous entries we pondered on how to accept criticism (CLICK). Today, approaching the subject from a different side, we suggest how to criticise, not to discourage other person from acting. It is still widely believed that criticism is something bad and painful. However, as we already know from the previous entry, criticism can not only contribute to improving the efficiency, but it may also inspire.

Apparently, it is the ability to not to receive criticism in a personal manner that distinguishes true professionals from laymen. And how should it be on the other side? How to criticise to motivate and support? Read some advice that will definitely make it easier.

Positive criticism — 5 golden rules

  1. Pick the appropriate time and place. The point is not to make critical remarks in the presence of third parties, which could further embarrass the criticised person.
  2. When criticising refer only to the exact issue. Do not suggest that the person is a total failure. There is nothing more demotivating. “This project will be a lot better if you improve XY” sounds much less straining than “Your projects always have to be improved; try harder”. Even if it is true, you will achieve results contrary to the intended. Unless your intention is to completely discourage the criticised person from getting involved in the job.
  3. Use positive language. It sounds like an excerpt from books on personal development, but this is what hits the nail on the head. If you say, “You have failed, you should do this and that,” you will immediately clip the criticised person’s wings. “If you do this like that, the result will be a lot better”’ Read both sentences aloud and evaluate their emotional charge yourself.
  4. Control your emotions. Do not criticise when you are angry and definitely do not yell. If you are torn by negative emotions, try to calm down and say or write it all, when you have cooled down. Sometimes the presentation of critical position must be deferred to overcome the emotional charge.
  5. It would seem that criticism comes to us somewhat easier than compliments. However, if you want to achieve a positive effect, try to deliver your views on the need to improve something by adding some positives when criticising. E.g. “You have done well with the initial part of the project. I think that if you improve XYZ, the result will be even better”.

As you can see, how your interlocutor receives your criticism depends largely on you. Thus, the possible result largely depends on you. Although you can not control what the criticised person does with your opinion, you can still make every effort not to clip the interlocutor’s wings.

It is worth reminding the team at meetings that this is a one-horse race and possible critical remarks are meant to benefit the project, not point out mistakes or search for the proverbial “scapegoat” in the case of failure.


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