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Criticism that doesn’t hurt






Nobody likes to be told they're wrong. We discuss how constructive criticism can benefit you greatly, even if you don't want it By Yasmin Taj

How often have you fumed with anger over being criticised at work? How often have you felt that your shortcoming could have been pointed out to you in a better manner? We all make mistakes and want feedback; and this is where constructive criticism plays a very crucial role.

Experts through the years have remarked that constructive criticism is the secret to career improvement. According to Sucheta Shetty, vice president - HR, TAKE Solutions, "Constructive criticism is a well-meant assessment intended to help someone improve by offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about work or behaviour, usually involving both positive and negative feedback. This form of a feedback mechanism is productive as it enables the improvement of performance and also supports the individual in taking appropriate decisions."

"As HR professionals, we don't use the term, ‘criticism'. We use the word ‘feedback' instead because the former has a negative connotation," asserts Sanjay Joshi, HR head, Indian Subcontinent, Intertek. "Constructive feedback is the gap analysis we do for any individual of his/her skills, job knowledge and behaviours. This distinguishes between our perception of ourselves and others' perception of us," he adds.

So, what is the best way to offer criticism? Sunil Goel, MD, GlobalHunt says that constructive criticism generally comes from well-wishers - those who have been able to observe your behaviour, work style and gaps within it. "Critics should take the person into confidence and identify the right way to communicate the shortcomings. Critics should keep a substantial time gap to highlight them," he suggests.

The best form of criticism, according to Uttam Ghosh, head - HR, Centum Learning, is devoid of judgment and perceptions, thus focusing only on the core issue. "One must try to avoid any comments on one's personal traits, which normally is not received well. Often, if the approach of inclusivity is missed in the process, it leads to dysfunctional behaviour with non-desired outcomes," he states.

There is a very thin line between giving constructive criticism and generating negative criticism. Debasis Chatterji, CEO, Netxcell Limited maintains that constructive criticism should enable individuals to align their behaviour towards their growth and fulfillment, which in turn, reflects in the growth of the organisation. For Joshi, firstly, constructive criticism depends on the environment it is being conducted in. "The interaction should be one-on-one in nature and should not be conducted in public. The feedback should be detailed, realistic, logical, timely and the individual should be explained the ‘why' of feedback. Let's say someone who is attending the customers comes late; there are two ways to help the person improve. You can be direct and tell, You are always late or I have noticed that customers have to wait for you to get in. The approach needs to be right in order to be motivating rather than hurtful because at the end of the day, you want them to improve. This wouldn't be the end of the discussion but it will start an open dialogue with the individual and help him/her grow," he advises.