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Constructive Criticism vs Opinions

NumbskullNNumbskull Posts: 1,526
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Water Cooler
Having been through many courses and training in leadership, one of the things that we are taught is how to give constructive criticism, especially when counselling a member on performance. It's been found that, and it's taken many, many years in my organization, lol, true constructive criticism, when given properly, effects much better results than, let's say, an authoritative approach to the situation (we're no longer allowed to scream and yell (unless completely warranted) and call our subordinates names or talk to them in any other sort of demeaning and humiliating manner).

Anyways, I looked up the definition of constructive criticism, and how to effectively deliver it, and found a great business site, that pretty much mirrors what we practice when counselling a member.

1. Focus on the issue, not the person. It is important to focus this constructive criticism on the member's performance, not on his personal characteristics.

2. Begin with positive feedback. It is always a good idea to begin and end a session of constructive criticism by mentioning what is being done well. However, do not over-emphasize the positive points if there is a serious deficiency that has to be overcome. This could detract from the seriousness of the issue.

3. Be specific. For the criticism to be truly constructive, the manager needs to be specific about the errors or misjudgments that were made, the steps to be taken to correct the situation, and the expected results.

4. Be realistic. It is important that the plan and the timelines for corrective action are realistic and achievable. Also, the focus must be on areas of work over which the employee has control.

5. Be businesslike. The tone of delivery for constructive criticism should be matter-of-fact,not haranguing, sarcastic or demeaning.

6. Listen to and watch the employee. Make sure the employee has opportunity to talk about his perspective on this constructive criticism, to ask questions to clarify what you are saying, and even to offer ideas on corrective action. It is important that the manager take the time to listen to understand the employee's position.

7. Agree on next steps. Before the meeting ends, the manager and employee should agree to the corrective action. If the employee is having difficulty accepting this criticism, constructive or not, it might be best to give him time to think about everything and schedule another meeting for the next day.

One of the sites I visited gave the difference between giving constructive criticism and giving your opinion. The definition of Constructive Criticism from Wikipedia is as follows:

"Constructive criticism, or constructive analysis, is a compassionate attitude towards the person qualified for criticism. Having higher experience, gifts, respect, knowledge in specific field and being able to verbally convince at the same time, this person is intending to uplift the other person materially, morally, emotionally or spiritually. For high probability in succeeding compassionate criticism, the critic has to be in some kind of healthy personal relationship with the other one, which is normally a parent to child, friend to friend, teacher to student, spouse to spouse or any kind of recognized authority in specific field. Hence the word constructive is used so that something is created or visible outcome generated rather than the opposite. Participatory learning in pedagogy is based on these principles of constructive criticism, focusing on positive examples to be emulated over precepts to be followed."

Opinion is defined (from Wikipedia) as follows:

" An opinion is a subjective statement or thought about an issue or topic, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. An opinion may be supported by an argument, although people may draw opposing opinions from the same set of facts. Opinions rarely change without new arguments being presented. However, it can be reasoned that one opinion is better supported by the facts than another by analysing the supporting arguments.[1]

"An opinion may be the result of a person's perspective, understanding, particular feelings, beliefs, and desires. In casual use, the term opinion may refer to unsubstantiated information, in contrast to knowledge and fact-based beliefs."

As the one site that describes the difference between the two states:

"One must exercise great caution in distinguishing between Constructive Criticism and a simple Opinion, as well as placing an appropriate value on each."

I think the above is fantastic advice, and if we all follow the guidelines of giving constructive criticism and our own opinions, there would be much less occurrence of animosity in the threads. (that would be my opinion, :D ) I also think that Ron sums up the receiving end of constructive criticism nicely in his post: http://www.spine-health.com/forum/new-member-introductions/sometimes-we-read-what-we-dont-want

APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own


  • Hi Kelly,

    First of all, I owe you so many "Thank you's" for all of your kindness in various posts. I have to admit that sometimes I have difficulty navigating through this site and sometimes I miss people's responses to my posts. I have always appreciated your positive and compassionate words. Again, thank you!

    Secondly, this is great information about how to go about giving constructive criticism. Do you mind if I ask again of the moderators whether this is something we are even supposed to do? If the rules say that we cannot give out medical advice, to me it seems that it would also rule out telling someone that we think that they are doing something wrong. On the other hand, by sharing our own experiences, I think we can provide insight to each other in order to help one another. In my humble opinion, that is still very different from constructive criticism.

    This is just my opinion. Thanks for starting a new and very informative thread on this topic.

    Now, I need to find a good, slow-moving movie on Netflix so that I can get some sleep!

    Good night!

  • My federal job that I retired from, we went through "High Performance Organizational Management" training, and much of what you've described is what we as the "leadership" had training on.

    Similar to what you've put in your post, we too were trained and taught to do. Sadly, in the federal government, a lot of management do a brain flush as they walk out of the training! I took a lot of those classes and applied them day to day with my employees. I also encouraged the employees (as part of their meeting) to tell me their strengths and weaknesses. We had two way conversations, and I always let the employee know that with me, there is no "I am the hammer and you are the nail" mentality. I also tried to always end the meeting on a good note as to why they are valued! My guys when I retired told me my fairness and support with/for them (even when they did bad) was going to be so missed! The management left were I use to work are the "Hammer and you are a nail" theory of treating their employees!

    I still use the HP training I received in my day to day life. :) Good thread!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • One of the things that I find intriguing about Spine Health, is how individuals from so many different walks of life can come together in the spirit of helping others and set aside so many differences. Since I read so many posts, there are many times that I shake my head in total disbelief or amazement.

    Coupled with this is how some folks write or express their feelings. Pain is a very emotional issue and when something just clicks and a person is compelled to respond, there's no telling what I might read.

    I was booted from an old newsgroup several years ago, before forums were really a mainstay. I was booted because I applied what I considered to be some tough love. I felt that the situation warranted something like that and So I started using that approach. It wasn't long before I was approached and told to "conform or go".

    So all I am trying to get at, is that even though we may be delivering the same message, our delivery may be a bit different.

  • We have a motto, "Firm, Fair and Friendly". I always try to stick with that, along with all the other things we are taught, especially the fair part. In some cases, it's not so practical to be friendly though, lol. I had a couple of hard tickets the past couple of years that worked for me. The one said, after a disciplinary counselling session, that he left knowing I had just told him he was a bag of hammers, but he felt good about it and wanted to change the errors of his ways! LOL
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I didn't follow the 'buzz' paths that HP taught us. I liked "Truth, Respect and Fairness." The guys liked that even if I didn't like someone, I still worked with them, or helped them if it came to that.

    Trying to be friends with employees I found to backfire too many times. "If we were truly friends, you wouldn't be disciplining me" or some crap like that! I would flip it and say, "If we really were friends, YOU wouldn't put ME in this position now would ya?" That usually got the gears turning! (G)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Sometimes it is hard to read the "tone" in a post, just as it can be in an email. I have sent emails that were meant to be sincere, and the receiver has found them to be rude.

    I find that some posts on forums sound as though they're being delivered by doctors or neurosurgeons; they are almost TOO professional. While most of us understand that the posts are only opinions, they are very convincing!

    You're right, "C" - pain is so emotional that often people just write exactly what is on their mind when they're in a frustrated or depressed state. Over the years there have definitely been some "interesting" posts! :-))

  • I completely agree, it's hard to not post in the "heat of the moment" I always try to walk away and think about it first, but I do have my moments, lol.

    C, I've read quite a few posts from you, where you've expressed "tough love" and I've never found any of your posts to be nothing but constructive and respectful.

    That's what it comes down to in the end, and I guess what I've been trying to say all along... Respect.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • when all you get is constructive criticism or tough love especially if you're new to a place. It's nice to get comfortable then have someone share a few things with you. I find a lack of information is often misinterpreted and can lead to misunderstandings and very well so when you're dealing with complete strangers. I think it's okay to have healthy debates as long as it isn't hurting someone.

    I may have hurt someone by my words? If I have I'm sorry but know we're on this pain path together and come from different lifestyles and feel I'm approachable just be gentle. lol

    I'm also aware of kind, friendly people as being misunderstood as touchy feely people as maybe being less than them and weak when we know that's not so usually these people are quite educated and tying to give support instead of being po8ped on by rough tough love. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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