Feedback and Constructive Criticism in the Workplace

Image courtesy of SD Dirk's photostream

Image courtesy of SD Dirk’s photostream

I’m sure at some point everyone has either given or received feedback in the workplace. As a leader, this is an important task to master.

There are two main types of feedback.  I like to call it “Atta Boy” versus “Oh Boy.”

During Atta Boy feedback, you praise for what went well and the behaviors you would like to see continued. During Oh Boy feedback, the main objective is to provide guidance to the employee. You want to support or help that person get back on track towards being successful. Managers need to make sure the person receiving the message knows what you’re saying and why you’re saying it.

Effectively communicating feedback and constructive criticism isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to behavior or performance. A manager needs to focus on making that criticism constructive and the praise specific and sincere. No matter the person, egos are fragile and workplace relationships are on the line. This reminds me of a quick story…

When I lived in Michigan, I coached youth football for 10 years. Every off-season, our entire coaching staff would attend at least one coaching academy. One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned was when we went to a coaching academy held by the Detroit Lions. Rod Marinelli was the head coach and a fantastic public speaker and motivator. One of the topics that stood out to me was when he talked about giving feedback to his players.

Coach Marinelli told our group that no matter who he gives feedback/criticism to, he always starts with positive feedback before providing the negative. He told us that at a minimum, a leader should provide two positive comments for every one negative. Coach Marinelli even made a joke about his players being paid millions of dollars a year to play a game, most of them making much more per year than he was, but he still had to be careful with their egos or it would get in the way of their performances. He told us that over the years, he noticed that performance drops when only giving negative feedback. By providing Atta Boy, positive comments, along with the negative, players were more receptive to the feedback.

As a devoted Lions fan, I wish he provided more positive feedback to his players that year as the Lions went 0-16. While all Lions fans would prefer to forget that the season even took place, I am grateful for the lessons I learned in that coaching academy.

In my next blog post (scheduled for October 1st), I’ll share more specific examples of how to give feedback and constructive criticism in the workplace.

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