Here’s How to Motivate Employees with Constructive Criticism

As a manager, being able to provide precise feedback is important. Giving rewards and consequences motivates employees to perform and achieve the results you desire. To maximize effectiveness, your feedback should be tailored to the employee, thought out and delivered close to the event. Learn how to motivate your employees with these guidelines on giving constructive criticism.


Before you provide constructive criticism, take 5-10 minutes to prepare what you want to say. The employee may have questions about what you tell them. They might be defensive or genuinely want to understand what you meant. To prepare, ask yourself what context the event happened in and whether it happened before. Determine why the event is important and how it affects others. Think about what the employee should do differently going forward. Use this information to clarify your intentions.

Give Positive Feedback

When you see an employee doing something right, comment on it. Your feedback will mean more to the employee than saying they did a good job. Thanking them for doing a great job typically results in their repeating the behavior. Be sure to praise each employee on at least one specific item per week.

Provide Constructive Criticism

Be direct when providing constructive criticism. Provide clear guidance on how the employee can do better. Choose words that are assertive and factual. Start with a neutral comment to reduce defensiveness. Use a pleasant but firm tone to explain how the behavior affects you, your team, or the municipality and why it’s an issue. Share the behavior you expect to see. Ask how the employee will fulfill your request. If they say, they cannot commit to behaving as asked, further discuss the issue to reach an understanding. If the employee continues to perform adversely, increase your constructive criticism.


Actively listen to what your employee says about your constructive criticism. Focus on having a two-way conversation. Since you want your employee to improve, you need to hear their side of things. Listen for key information to determine the context of what happened. Maintain a positive mindset that the behavior was unintentional and can be modified. Ask questions to clarify your understanding of what your employee is saying. Dig deeper to get more information about the behavior. Maintain a neutral tone. Show empathy and respect.

Clarify Next Steps

Decide what action to take after discussing an issue. Share exactly what to do to change behavior and improve performance. The more direct you are, the more likely the action will be taken. If you can provide support to help the employee, do so. State a time to follow up with the employee and hold them accountable. They’re more likely to take action.


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