Few facts about constructive criticism

There is big difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. The difference is in the way in which comments are delivered. Although both forms are challenging your ideas, character or ability. When someone is giving you a destructive criticism it can easily hurt your pride and it can have a negative effects on your self-esteem and confidence.

At the workplace the purpose of constructive criticism is to  help the recipient improve and ensure that the same mistake will not happen again. The biggest challenge is to do this without talking down to somebody or making someone feel down.


The feedback is a central component of the manager-employee relationship. Many managers fail to give appropriate constructive feedback to employees and they often offend the employee with their negative feedback, micromanagement techniques and lack of empathy. For every problem there is a solution. One of the solutions for this issue is  the ”sandwich feedback” technique that is a popular three-step procedure to help managers with giving corrective feedback to employees.

The sandwich feedback method consists of praise followed by corrective feedback followed by praise. In other words, the sandwich feedback method involves discussing corrective feedback that is “sandwiched” between two layers of praise. In this way the message is much easier for a manager to deliver and softer for the employee to receive and acknowledge without making him feel bad about himself and his abilities. It’s a way to sandwich the negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback.

Some people call this method a hamburger method as well. As I earlier mentioned this method is named like this because the pieces of bread represent positive feedback or compliments while the meat of the sandwich represents the ”meat of the matter” in other words, constructive criticism without hurting somebody pride and self-confidence. It’s easier for people to hear and accept negative feedback when it comes along with positive feedback.


Some leaders believe that with the sandwich feedback you risk alienating your direct point. So they chose to give the positive feedback at some other occasions. I believe that this approach makes the employee feel that the negative feedback is the only part of their performance evaluation and this can be very disappointing. So it is a good think to give the feedback straightaway, and the positive and negative feedback should be always balanced.

Even if you do not agree with the sandwich method, it’s always nice to start the conversation with some positive feedback for ice breaking and to make your opponent feel relaxed and respected. Criticism in general is very delicate topic and it should be handled very carefully.

Anyhow, I think that any criticism positive or negative should be authentic and well thought out. It is important first to view the situation from different points of views before jumping to conclusion or to accuse somebody of something.

If you have difficult time to accept constructive or destructive criticism yourself you can try to follow this few tips.

First of all learn how to listen. It is not easy especially when you are not particularly thrilled with what they are saying. Try to respect the person by listening to what she or he has to say, before you interject.

Photo by me Amsterdam The Netherlands

If you don’t understand the point someone is trying to make, don’t hesitate to ask him to elaborate. Following up with questions will help to ensure that  both of you are on the same page. So ask the clarifying questions if what you hear is not clear.

All feedback is not equal. While getting some honest feedback from a co-worker who knows little about your project may help you to identify weak spots, or it can help you to see the things from different point of view, so this feedback should always be welcomed and you should not worry or to be upset about it.

Photo by me Copenhagen Denmark

But the most important it’s that you focus on the feedback that coming from those to whom you report to. If you wonder why, the answer is simple, the boss plays a powerful role in the employee’s work life and you need to remember this at all times. You can easily lose your job if you immediately start to defend yourself and start to point the mistakes to others. Regarding this issue please check my blog post ”Be proactive and not reactive”, it may help you to understand why it is important to stay calm and not react immediately after receiving any feedback.


It is good to remember that you can have a positive benefit from feedback in order to improve yourself most of the time. Be respectful no matter what, try to figure out if the feedback is constructive or simply rude. Anyhow don’t take it personally. People always tend to judge other people. Criticism as a word is defined by Chambers English Dictionary as ‘passing judgement’ on another person. Other people criticism is not the reason to feel bad about yourself in any case.

The truth is that destructive criticism offers no help or support for improvement, it simply sets out the problem as seen by the person who is giving criticism. You can think of it as tending to bring someone down, and making them feel bad, whether this is deliberate or not.
On other hand constructive criticism, identifies ways in which the recipient can make changes that improve things. It builds up the other person, and helps them to make positive changes to their behavior in order to avoid future problems. So we can consider constructive criticism as proactive behavior.

If you are in managerial position and you need to give the constructive feedback to your employees it’s good to remember that the constructive feedback focuses on the behavior that you want and wish to see, not on the behavior that you saw and did not appreciate. It is also good to express your feelings on how somebody’s behavior effects you as a person. For example you can say: ” When you do this…. I feel like….”

Everyone has different perspectives, which means every critique can be interpreted in different ways. Giving recommendations will give the person a clear idea of what you have in mind. Secondly, recommendations provide a strong call-to-action. You want the person to act on what you have shared, not procrastinate.

The good and effective feedback should be specific and simple. The more words you are using, the more confused your listener will be. It is better to say: ”It will be nice if you show more respect to your colleagues” than ”I do not like and accept the way you talk to your colleagues.” If you want to achieve constructive feedback, then use the positive words instead of negative.

One more important thing to avoid is to criticize a person when you feel angry. It won’t be helpful, believe me and it certainly won’t be constructive. It is important to have emotional awareness before you give any feedback. Be sure that you are ready and that other person is also ready to hear what you have to say. Find the right timing. Never criticize a person in front the others. Do it privately. Focus on situation and not on person.

When providing criticism, do so within what you know as fact about the issue. There’s no need to make any assumptions. Not only does it make the person look and feel bad, it also makes you look bad especially because your assumption might be wrong.

Before you start with any feedback, put yourself into the other person shoes for a moment. Show some empathy. Think about how would you feel if someone told to you what you are about to tell to the other person. And only if you are sure that you will find it acceptable then bring it up to a person gently.

Communication skills are important for everyone, leaders and managers perhaps need them even more. According to a http://www.fuze.com research, the upper management often spends 50% of the time at work in meetings and 90% of time communicating. The communication is the most important key to leadership success. Giving and receiving feedback is very much related to communication skills and I believe that all of us should give more attention to developing our communication skills and among  many other soft skills I put this skill as a base, on the first place.

Photo by me- Nea Peramos Greece

For the end regarding the criticism in general there is no way that we can avoid it. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said ”There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.


4 thoughts on “Few facts about constructive criticism

Add yours

  1. Dear Serena, thank you for your comment.
    I totally understand your confusion regarding this topic. I was confused myself therefore I decided to learn more about it and write about all I learned from the books and through 20 years of my working career.
    First you need to understand the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism then you will realize that this topic is simple after all. I will give you few examples and I am sure you will get it.
    Constructive criticism is mostly coming from people who cares about you, like your parents or your close friends because they know your abilities and they want to see you successful and by giving you advise or feedback they are just trying to help you to become even better than you are in what ever you do. It is just their opinion and it is up to you if you are going to listen, understand and let it in. For sure constructive criticism is able to help you to make positive changes in your life. Constructive criticism can also come from your managers or superiors, because they are striving for the best team performance and for the better team productivity, so don’t take their criticism personally it is just part of their job.
    From the other side destructive criticism is coming from the people who tries to make you feel bad about your self and your abilities. You will often encounter this kind of people especially at the work place. There are rude or incompetent coworkers in every workplace and the most of the people knows who they are :). Their criticism is just their insecure attempt to make you look bad and to make them look better and more competent than you. But please don’t take any of their words personally and do not get into a trap to defend yourself and start to point the mistakes to others. Try to stay calm and don’t let in opinions that will hurt you. You can responded with simple: ”Thank you for letting me know.” or “Thank you for sharing that with me.” What you are actually saying in other words is ”That is your opinion, you are free to express it but I am not going to let that in.” Don’t argue wit them, there is no point. After all managers watch all of you and they know very well who is really working and who is jerking around.


  2. You really make it appear really easy with your presentation but I to find this topic to be really one thing which I think I’d never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very extensive for me. I am having a look ahead on your next publish, I’ll try to get the grasp of it!


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