How to Give Constructive Criticism

Nearly 16,000 managers were surveyed in two separate studies by leadership development consultancies, one by Zenger and the other by Folkman. It might come as a shock to you that 44% of the managers responded that they find the act of giving feedback stressful, especially when it is negative. One-fifth of the managers avoid it entirely, which raises the question if our employees aren’t giving 100% to their work, can we, as managers, be at fault? Imagine dealing with an unproductive, unpunctual and irresponsible employee on your team who hasn’t been told about these traits yet. Picture him/her coming up to you and asking you for a raise? Shocking as it may seem, it is you who is at fault for not ever pointing out the worst.

Criticism, like evaluations, is an important aspect of being a manager. As managers, it is imperative that we understand the importance of giving and receiving feedback. Feedback, especially constructive feedback, is a respectful way of helping employees better themselves. It is a means of guiding them with honesty, directness, and dignity while not damaging their feelings and ego. When delivered in the right manner, it doesn’t create uneasy spaces within the four walls of the office but rather strengthens interpersonal bonds, which ultimately boosts the productivity and efficiency of employees.

The majority of managers find it hard to offer constructive criticism when it comes to pointing out areas of improvement. They struggle with finding the right balance between advising and criticizing, they fear their words might hurt the feelings of their employees, they worry if it will negatively impact their productivity by demoralizing them, etc.

But here’s a fact—you are going to have to get comfortable delivering constructive criticism. Really, really, really comfortable! Although it is hard enough to deliver it to anyone, it is the hardest when giving it to someone who always gets on your nerves or to an underperforming employee. To say the least, such situations require mastering the art of giving constructive criticism.

Therefore, in this article, together we shall learn how to give constructive criticism in a way that doesn’t hurt the receiver’s feelings as well as learn the differences between constructive and non-constructive criticism and how to use empathy to improve the impact of the criticism.

Understanding Interpersonal Relationships

If you are interested in improving your interpersonal relationships at work but have always found it difficult, then you might like my Pluralsight course, Building Healthy Interpersonal Relationships at Work, where I talk about how to build, and maintain effective relationships, how to manage conflict and how to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Having a great day at work is one of the top ways to boost your mood and self-confidence. When things are going right in the workplace, you feel a sense of security that just cannot be duplicated elsewhere. Most of us need this type of workplace stability to become successful and productive. If you have ever felt that you love your job and you don’t mind the work involved, but there is still something out of place, consider the relationships that you have built with your coworkers. Interpersonal connections are essential in your daily life, and this includes your professional side.

Understanding Interpersonal Relationships by Stephen Haunts

When you work in an environment where you feel that you can be heard and understood, you are more likely to succeed. Those with hostile work environments tend to not only be more stressed out on an average daily basis but also find ways to take this stress out on loved ones or other uninvolved people. Getting along with your coworkers and supervisors can make all the difference between a great day and a terrible one.

Consider the way that you communicate with your peers. Is the interaction healthy? Productive? Do you feel that you lack something? This course is meant to help you dissect your interpersonal relationships at work while striving toward more robust connections. 

Self-Motivation and the Locus of Control

Motivation is not an easy topic for most people. In this day and age, procrastination runs rampant on the streets of society. We are raised to believe that the most natural path is the one that we should take and that we should use whatever means necessary to get the job done the quickest. However, what happened to the right way of doing things? What happened to our self-motivation? 

It is all too easy to get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle that we live in today, and we often forget to ask ourselves the most straightforward questions. Why are we here? What are we doing with our lives? Are we enjoying the path that we are currently on?

I want to help guide you toward those answers, but to do so I need you to tap into what is known as your “Locus of Control.” Your locus of control is merely defined as 

“the capacity to which you believe you have complete control and power over what happens to you in your life.”

In layman’s terms, do you think that you have much, if any, effect on what happens in your life?

Julian Rotter is the psychologist who first came up with the term as he believed that a person’s locus of control varied by the individual. As Rotter hypothesized in his theory, the locus of control could occur on either an external spectrum or an internal one, and each person fell somewhere on that spectrum. Depending on where you find yourself on this spectrum of locus of control, your behaviors to your external environment will differ.

Life at a Start-up : Hiring Developers

In a previous post I said that at Buying Butler and RightIndem we have been growing quite rapidly across the board, but in this post I want to talk a little about our hiring process for developers. Hiring good people is hard and Me, and our CTO Steve Weston, have worked at many companies that have had horrible hiring processes, so we are keen to not replicate some of these other companies.

Interview Preparation
Interview Preparation

When we hire developers, and if you are due to interview with me and have landed on this post as part of your research (hello), there are 4 main things we are looking for in a developer. These are

  • Have you got the base skills to come in and be productive straight away?
  • How passionate are you about software development?
  • What is your approach to learning and picking up new skills and technologies?
  • Will you be a good cultural fit for the company?

By knowing this bit of insight you are not cheating our recruitment process, but by understanding these 4 areas you will be in a position to wow us in the interview. Lets cover these off one by one.

Is Being a Manager Right for Me – Techorama Talk

I have just delivered a talk at the Belgium software development conference Techorama. My talk was called Is Being a Manager Right for Me. This talk is a shortened version of my First Pluralsight course called Developer to Manager.

If you want a copy of the slides, they can be found here.

Is being a manager right for me by Stephen Haunts at Techorama
Is being a manager right for me by Stephen Haunts at Techorama

The purpose of the talk is to help developer decide if being a manager s right for them. The talk sets out to set their expectations by talking about career paths, the difference between management and leadership and many core skills that a manager or leader needs.

The talk went very well and I had a good sized audience. I will do a fuller write up of the conference when I am back from the conference.

Different Perspectives : Developer to Manager

Recently a company called Plan.IO, which is a company that produces online project management software wrote a blog article about becoming a manager from a software developer background.

Developer to Manager
Developer to Manager

I was interviewed as part of this article and provided one of the perspectives out of 3. It’s an interesting ready, so I recommend heading over there. It is a subject I care a lot about as it is a jump I made my self. I wrote an article on this very subject back in 2014, and it was also the subject of my first Pluralsight course called Developer to Manager.

Practical Tips for Talking at Usergroups and Conferences Part 1

Since becoming a Pluralsight author in July 2014, I have been working toward increasing my own personal brand. Part of this has been about getting out into the programming community and talking at User groups. I did my first talk in January of this year and have since done many talks. I was initially quite nervous about public speaking but I have enjoyed the process very much and I intend to increase the amount of talks I do in 2016.

Stephen Haunts talking at the Leeds Sharp Usergroup
Stephen Haunts talking at the Leeds Sharp Usergroup

I have learnt many things along the way whilst preparing and delivering talks so I thought I would write this post to talk about what I have learnt. If you have experience in this area and also have your own tips from public speaking it would be great to hear them in the comments for this post.

I have split this into two posts. Tips for before you deliver your talk, and the actual delivery itself.

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