Thursday, June 3, 2010
How to Effectively Criticize a Coworker without Hurling Obscenities, Throwing Punches or Firing Wildly in Their General Direction
Few can deny that criticism is a crucial factor in helping one achieve their best. Yet critics are a lot like mimes. They’re never appreciated in their own time and no one ever bothers to show up at their funeral. Eventually their tombstones are sanded down and reused for someone else, usually a cat.
But sometimes it’s necessary to point out another person’s failings, never more so than in the office…or when the family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s often unpleasant and a little nerve-wracking so to make sure you effectively get your point across it helps to be calm, candid and well into your third vodka tonic, keeping the following tips in mind:
• Be Specific: Telling someone they cost the company millions isn’t criticism. It’s a complaint. But telling them how many jobs must now be cut, how many people hold that person responsible and how you haven’t witnessed such a thirst for vengeance outside of a Mario Puzo novel will almost certainly get your point across.
• Be Impersonal: Discuss behavior, not personality. Don’t tell someone they “lack the brains God gave a potato.” Simply tell them that in a similar situation, a potato—or for that matter, any tuber—would almost certainly have thought twice before proceeding.
• Be Kind: The purpose of criticism is to improve performance, not destroy confidence. One way to soften your critique is to start off with a compliment, such as: “Nice car you’ve got there. Pity something should happen to it if you were to fuck up again.”
• Be Private: Never criticize someone in front of others. Instead, “happen” upon them late one night in the office restroom when no one else is around. Keep your voice steady, your demeanor professional and your punches to areas that don’t readily show bruises.
Most people don’t like to point out a coworker’s foibles. And only a masochist would enjoy hearing someone tell them that they’re the reason mankind will one day be ruled by apes. But when it comes to business you’re all in it together so why should you be the only one to suffer? Besides, the more you pee on everybody’s parade the less likely they’re going to march up to your office. You get peace of mind. They get put in their place. Everybody’s a winner.