As a project manager, you have probably had to provide criticism to a team member before. It can be awkward, especially if that colleague normally performs well or you get on with them. However, there are a number of techniques you can employ to provide more constructive criticism. One is the 'constructive criticism sandwich'. Read on and learn this deliciously important skill. After reading the article, you might also be tempted to book one of our soft skills courses for project managers.
As a project manager, soft skills are all too important if you are going to get the most out of your team. Many project management courses are simply not long enough to adequately cover all the soft skills which people need in a project manager role, so let’s take a look at how to give criticism in a positive way.
Humans naturally focus on the negative more than the positive. Sometimes if we get criticised, the negativity can de-motivate us and mask over any positive aspects of our performance. We then feel bad about ourselves and feel like we can’t do anything right. Therefore when giving feedback to a staff member it is important to remind them why they are valued in the first place, this is where the constructive criticism sandwich technique comes into play.
Some managers may dismiss the idea of a criticism sandwich, suggesting that it is an easy way of giving negative feedback by concealing it in positivity. Obviously every manager has their own technique, but I feel that an empathetic relationship and positive atmosphere between management and their team can further boost performance.
Ingredients for your constructive criticism sandwich - To be eaten in this order
Soft, fluffy bread
It’s not strictly true that you are trying to soften the blow here, but just begin on a positive note. Bring up the situation that you would like to talk to the employee about and state some positive comments about their performance in that situation.
Point out the employees strong points that they use within their role and compliment them. Don’t do this for the sake of doing it, be honest. Think of the reason they were employed in the first place, remind them of why they are valued in this position
The heavy meaty part
Now this is where you give the constructive criticism. Be straight to the point, state why this behaviour is not acceptable or up to standard and why it is important that they improve. Tell them how the company will benefit from their improvement.
The lighter meaty part
Remind the employee again of their strong points, motivate them and reassure them that you are confident that they can improve in their role. You are not trying to mask over the criticism but offering support and motivation.
Soft, fluffy bread
This is when you bring your sandwich to a close and put the lid on it! Thank your employee for their contribution to the team. Tell them how you will help them to improve their performance. Give clear action points of your expectations and set dates for performance reviews.
Hopefully after receiving their criticism sandwich your employee will be feeling energised, positive and ready to work on the action plan. Take a look at the infographic above for a tasty, visualised version of the constructive criticism sandwich.
Are you tempted by this recipe for giving feedback? Do you agree or disagree that this a constructive way of giving feedback? Please comment below with your thoughts and if you like our tasty infographic, give it a ‘like’ and a share!