How to Give Constructive Criticism to a Work Colleague

Help, I have an employee whom I manage that frequently speaks too loud?  I’m a relatively new manager and am feeling a bit uncomfortable with how to approach the situation. I know it’s ‘my job’ and it comes with the title, but I hate conflict.

Yes, level of voice and tone are very important parts of effective communication. Research studies at UCLA by Albert Mehrabian show that 38% of our first impression is made by how we use our voice.  Your employee may not realize they are speaking too loudly, which in turn may be sending the wrong message to the people with whom they are communicating.  And yes, you’re correct, you have to deal with it, no matter how uncomfortable conflict makes you, as you mentioned it’s ‘your job’ to confront the situation.

How to Give Constructive Criticism to a Work Colleague


How you approach the subject of sharing this information, or constructive criticism, can be a bit tricky.  The goal with constructive criticism is to bring something to someone’s attention to assist him or her in doing better, improving themselves or the situation.  Yes, we as managers know that’s the bottom line – but we are all too well aware that constructive criticism is usually, and unfortunately, met with defense.

One method that may work for you is the Compliment Sandwich; offering a compliment, then the constructive criticism, followed by a compliment.  This helps to keep the situation positive.  Yes, it may be “sugar coating”, but if it helps the “medicine” to go down, then it does the job.

Make sure to focus on the point, not the person.  It’s the action that you are applying the constructive criticism towards, not the individual. Keeping the focus on the point usually helps to keep some of the defensiveness at bay.  And if the situation allows, add a bit of humor.  Approaching the topic in a light-hearted manner is another way to help the recipient be more open to the subject.

And of course how the person responds to the constructive criticism is completely outside of our control.  Keeping in mind, we can’t control what other people do or say, the only thing we can control is how we react.  So keep it positive, and know that you are doing the right thing by offering the feedback, and hope your employee receives it in the same spirit.

Readers, what other methods of delivering Constructive Criticism work for you?  I’d love to hear your feedback.  And you don’t even need to serve it up in a ‘compliment sandwich’ unless of course you want to practice the process!

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CareySue Vega

Carey Sue Vega is a business and youth etiquette expert. For ten years, she honed her skills with an international audience as Cruise Director for the Norwegian Cruise Line. Vega has been featured in numerous radio and television shows and magazine articles, sharing her etiquette expertise.  She’s also social savvy with social media. Connect with CareySue.


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