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Criticise With Care

One business situation that demands highly tuned communication skills is imparting criticism. If you are a sales manager with employees reporting to you, for example, you will at some time need to perform this unwelcome task. Here are a few ideas to help yon to do it in as pleasant a manner as possible:

Criticise The Behavior, Not To Person

Do not assign character traits to a person based on single example. For instance, a couple of your salesmen may always be late with their call reports, creating delays for your own reporting process. Accusing them of irresponsibility, and laziness may be unfair and will put their backs up, instead of encouraging them to mend their ways. Focusing on the need for timely reports, on the other hand, spells out clearly to them what they must change, and avoids looking like a personal attack.

Do Not Make Comparisons

Resist the temptation to compare one salesman's record or habits with another's. It is annoying for an employee to be constantly told how well others do things, with the implication that he somehow falls short. It is much more effective to compare a salesman's performance against stated goals, or against your own expectations as a manager. This provides a specific goal to which he can aspire.

Enlist His Help

Rather than simply pointing out an employee's offending behavior, explain the effect it is having on others it the section or on the entire department, and ask for help in correcting the situation. For example, you can say: "When your call report is a couple of days late, as it has been for the past few months, I don't have an opportunity to prepare my reports in time for the management meeting, and that looks bad for our whole department. Any ideas on how we can keep on schedule with this?"

Carefully chosen language can increase your chance of success. Instead of telling them to come in early to finish the task, phrase it as a suggestion: "If you come in half an hour early on the day the report is due, would that give you enough time to hush it?" This is a reasonable request, and provides an opportunity for a discussion of alternatives.

Balance Criticism With Praise

It is demoralising for employees to feel they are noticed only when they have done something wrong. So make sure you give them credit for a job well done. Also remember, praise in public.and criticise in private. Embarrassing people in front of their peers is not the way to get the best out of them. Criticism is sometimes necessary. Do it badly, and you antagonise an otherwise valued employee. Do it well, through good communication, and you will not only eliminate the unacceptable behavior but may well cement your relationship with the employee.

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