Constructive criticism should have a purpose, endpoint, or goal. Often the goal is to change a behavior and give direction as to the desired outcome.

Harmful criticism often leaves the recipient certain of the disapproval of the one administering the diatribe; however, they may have no clue what is expected of them at the end of the session.

Constructive criticism makes the receiver hopeful. It gives them a reason to improve, a method for improvement, and often, a sense of appreciation. It should begin with a compliment, then gently but firmly address the issue at hand. A discussion should follow of the techniques in question, with suggestions for improvement. It should close with a statement of the speaker’s gratitude for the effort being given, and the confidence that they hold in this team member.

Harmful criticism that is meted out with a harsh, demanding tone, and the person being reprimanded may only create feelings of belittlement and intimidation. Some staff members may be completely baffled. The reason may not be clearly stated, or provide the expectation of improvement. Often these types of sessions are written off as a bad day on the part of leadership, and the intended doesn’t even realize there was a goal in mind. Instead, they may feel vented on and abused rather than disciplined.

Constructive criticism should be taken into a private arena where possible. The only exception to this rule is if something must be demonstrated, such as a process. If there is an area where the discussion may be held, with teaching to follow afterward, this is still much better. The goal of constructive criticism is to improve a situation. Consideration of the human behind the issue is key.

Harmful criticism does not care about the humiliation of the subject, and to make the point publicly is considered an added bonus. After all, nobody will want to experience THAT embarrassment again, so surely, they won’t make the same mistake in the future.

Constructive criticism looks something like this: “Hi, Joe. Listen, while we are walking back to the workroom, I would like to take a moment and discuss something. Could we step in the lounge for a second, please? OK, I noted the other day that you have really come a long way with your documentation, and I wanted to tell you that it has been mentioned by several of the team leads. You are doing a great job with that. But, I also noticed that your numbers aren’t as high as some of the other team members doing the same job. I was wondering if you would mind if I watched you run a few parts? Maybe I could see something that would get your rate up, and help you make a little higher paycheck. I am sure it is something simple. I know you are good with your hands, so you are just missing something. I watch all the other guys, so I can probably help you streamline your process, too. We have every confidence that you are capable of considerably more than your current numbers, and I know I can help you get there. Are you up for that?”

Meanwhile, harmful criticism may come across as: “Hey Joe? Listen, if your numbers aren’t up in the next day or so, we are going to demote you, so get on it. All the other guys are hitting rate, so what is wrong with you anyway? It can’t be that hard! Just get it done, or else!”

In summary, constructive criticism builds up the team member and gives them a goal to reach for. Harmful criticism tears down the member and leaves them in the dark.
Be sure that your conversations with your team members are constructive, and watch your processes and personnel soar.

For help with Coachsulting and other ways of encouraging your employees in a positive manner, contact The Diamond Strategy Group today. MG (Retired) Mike Diamond is CEO and founder of Diamond Strategy Group. We are a leadership development and consulting company. We focus on improving the quality of employees within organizations by utilizing the same methods Mike and his consultants have used in both military and civilian sectors. We invite you to stay connected! Visit us online at and connect with Mike Diamond on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or E-mail us at!