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Constructive Criticism and Praise

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Posted 14 July 2010 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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• Bespoke in-house training.
These can be tailored to your specific needs.
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You may find the following will help with the training of your team leaders and managers.

Criticism and Praise

There is a difference between constructive and destructive criticism isn't there?

It is the same distinction that exists between giving:

  • Valuable feedback and
  • Painful insult

You should give feedback. You should not give insults.

Some people do not know the difference, and so....

  1. They mean to give feedback
  2. But it sounds more like an insult


Read the following statements

Label each one either

  1. Insult
  2. Feedback

Depending on your assessment.

Here goes.....

  1. You act like an idiot sometimes in the office (insult or feedback?)
  2. You allow people to take advantage of your kind nature by giving them too many concessions when they should have done the work you originally asked for. (insult or feedback?
  3. You are badly organised. (Insult or feedback?
  4. You spend too much time complaining (Insult or feedback?
  5. You are a foul mouthed ape
  6. You come to work wearing flip flops and shorts.
  7. You spend too long talking without the conversation adding any value
  8. You don't turn up on time for meetings
  9. You are bad tempered
  10. You come to work looking a right mess
  11. You are a pushover
  12. You swear too much, too often and too loudly
  13. You are too tired some mornings to be capable of any productive thinking
  14. You look like you are half asleep most mornings
  15. You told the caller to "get lost!"

Now here is the important question:

What criterion are you using to make your distinction?

What are the distinguishing characteristics that separate in your mind?

All the feedback messages from
All the insult messages?

Memorise this list!

All Feedback messages are:

  1. Objective
  2. Specific
  3. Non- emotionalised
  4. Non- opinionated
  5. Sensory verifiable

And do suggest a clear corrective action
As opposed to insult messages:

All insult messages are:

  1. Subjective
  2. Vague
  3. Emotionalised
  4. Opinionated
  5. Not verifiable by direct sense perception
  6. Does not suggest a specific corrective action


If you say "Your attitude is unacceptable", that is practically of zero value to you, or the other.

Because the phrase "Your attitude is unacceptable" is:

  1. Subjective
  2. Vague
  3. Emotionalised
  4. Opinionated
  5. Not verifiable by direct sense perception
  6. Does not suggest a specific corrective action

You would have to reduce the statement back down to the sensory evidence that gave rise to it:

Such as:

  • You are late to most team meetings
  • You don't answer the phone when it rings
  • You make sexist comments to Rachel
  • You leave dirty coffee cups all over the office

Other than that.... he is fine!

Learn the identity of "proper praise"

There is such a thing as meaningless praise.
Learn the difference between giving "Meaningless praise" and "positive feedback"
Praise should also be specific, and honest.

Example: "That cover design was imaginative and eye catching. You are very good at this!"

Do not use vague and empty praise

"You're The CHAMP!"
You're great
You look nice
Great, smashing, super!

Proper positive feedback has the following five characteristics

  1. Give specific praise, not general praise
  2. Make your praise sincere. Don't fake it
  3. Separate praise from reprimands (don't praise then immediately reprimand)
  4. Separate praise from delegation (Don't praise as a prelude to dumping a job on someone)
  5. Become the type of person whose praise is likely to be valued

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