By Clare Gurton (

Somewhere inside all of us is the desire to be ‘good’ and to be liked. And, as a result, we may find we shy away from taking criticism (either positive or negative) and likewise get nervous about how to give criticism. Some of this nervousness is undoubtedly due to the very word ‘criticism’; it conjures up feelings of blame and failure. If the word ‘feedback’ is substituted for criticism, the whole thing almost immediately feels better and less confrontational.

Learning to both take and give feedback is an essential part of any job; these tips will help you examine both parts of the exchange and make the process less daunting and more effective.

Giving negative feedback

  • Always try to resolve any issues face to face, in a quiet and private space – preferably in the space/office of the person whose work needs improvement – as this will make them feel more at ease and less threatened.
  • Be calm and controlled; never let anger enter into this exchange.
  • Give a clear message of exactly what is not working and what can be done to improve it. Be specific about the change or result you want and involve the person in thinking through solutions.
  • Never criticise the person, only the work or the behaviour; and empathise as much as possible.

Positive feedback

  • Giving positive feedback is as important as giving negative feedback and needs to be done in much the same way; don’t let emotion enter into the discussion and be clear about what was done well and why.
  • Don’t give too many compliments too often otherwise their value will be diluted and the act may become suspect.

Taking negative feedback

  • Try to focus on the issue and not the person or behaviour of the person who is giving the feedback.
  • Make sure you understand exactly what is being said and take a moment to analyse it in your own mind.
  • Don’t argue with the criticism and collect your feelings after the meeting. If you feel that you have been unfairly criticised then re-schedule a follow-up meeting to resolve this.

Accepting compliments

  • Accepting a compliment means working out what the compliment is and demonstrating that you have understood and received the message.
  • Don’t be coy and respond with a flippant statement which will only de-value and possibly offend the person giving you the compliment.

Candid feedback helps growth; if we are off track a little, or an employee of ours is, then the right kind of feedback can quickly re-route things. The more your career advances, the more your job should involve helping others to develop; knowing how to do it well increases the likelihood that it will be acted on and that you will be liked.