Delivering Constructive Criticism to Improve Team Performance

  • from

Image of a man and a woman sitting across from each other at a table, both are in front of notebook computers, depicting them providing constructive criticism of the other's work.

It's not always the best part of the job, but every manager is tasked with reviewing and evaluating staff performance, whether it's for your IT department or a project team. This can be a difficult and stressful moment for all concerned, particularly when the news is bad.  Read on to learn more about criticism and the steps needed to make it "constructive".

Whenever performance related criticism is in order, that criticism should be constructive and appropriate, and it should always be offered in the right context.... to help the employee get back on the right track. This is not an easy task, but with the right perspective, a well prepared manager can make the most of what could otherwise be a very uncomfortable situation.  It's all a matter of readiness.  So, before you prepare a negative performance review, or need to deliver verbal criticism to a staff member, make sure you have all the facts.  Here's how it works.....

Start with the Basic Performance Questions

  • Have performance objectives been fully and clearly defined for the employee?
  • Has there been an ongoing pattern of performance problems or is this an isolated incident?
  • If this is an isolated incident requiring immediate attention, are you aware of all pertinent facts, events, and extenuating circumstances?
  • Have you consulted with your manager and/or Human Resources to ensure that you are handling the matter in accordance with all internal policies?

Preparing for Constructive Results

With just three (3) primary steps you can get prepared for any coaching event and turn existing "negatives" into an ultimately positive and productive experience. At a minimum, you will have taken concrete steps to address potentially serious performance problems.  (Also Read:  Evaluating Team Readiness).

Step 1: Set the Time

  • If you are reacting to a specific performance problem, make sure that feedback is given as soon as possible after the incident occurs.
  • If you are preparing a negative performance review, make sure that your employee has sufficient notice and information to prepare for any related meeting.

Step 2: Set the Stage

  • Rehearse what you plan to say so that you can properly control the meeting, ensuring that you are well versed and confident in your opinion.
  • Be positive - stating the facts, but focusing on improvement. (here's what happened, here's why it's problem, now let's talk about what can be done....).
  • Be calm and consistent in your message.
  • Be specific - offering concrete facts and examples.
  • Be helpful - establish concrete actions for improvement to coincide with a specified timetable.  Clearly identify tangible improvement goals that can be measured.
  • Ask for feedback - performance communication is a two way street.  You want to ensure that your staff member has a chance to participate in the process.  At the very least, you need to know that your employee understands the nature of the performance problem, and the need for improvement.
  • Ask questions ..... how do you think you can avoid this problem in the future?  How can I help you to improve your performance?
  • End on a positive note -  thank your staff member for their participation, showing respect and consideration for their feelings.  Be sure to affirm your commitment to their performance improvement.

Work Smarter

Even under the best of circumstances, management is a challenge. When you learn to fast track, you’ll learn to work smarter, not harder. And that’s the value of every lesson, resource and template available at Fast Track Manage Learning. We teach you how to fast track your way to successful projects, committees and more. Learn More

Step 3: Follow-up

If you have given your staff member any specific steps for performance improvement, make sure you set and stick to a specific timetable for follow-up and review.  Don't leave the situation hanging until the next problem occurs.

Review your own performance. When all is said and done, your own instincts will tell you whether you have met your constructive criticism goals in each individual circumstance.

These are the questions to be considered…..

  • Was your criticism constructive?
  • Did you offer specific facts to support your opinion?
  • Did you offer tangible suggestions for improvement?
  • Did you engage the staff member in the discussion?
  • Did you learn anything new as a result of this encounter?
  • Did you feel good at the end of the meeting?
  • Has a next step clearly been identified for your employee?
Source: Unless noted otherwise, all content is created by and for

About Us

Right Track Logo staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management. is part of Right Track Associates, proprietors and publishers of multiple web sites including, Fast Track Manage, HOA Board List and more. We started in 2001 and have continued to grow our web site portfolio, Toolkit products, and related data services. To learn more, visit us at Right Track Associates.

Stay Informed

Useful information without inbox overload.

we do not sell our list

subscribe now
I.T. Service Planning The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The IT Service Strategy Toolkit teaches you how to fast track IT service planning using the time-saving “service strategy process”. The goals are simple... to manage IT departments, services and projects in a common-sense manner, to align business and technology, and realize maximum value, acceptance, and utilization - all at the lowest overhead costs. It’s all about adding value, in less time and with greater success. Get lifetime access to a growing IT service curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Committee Management The Project Committee Toolkit Start For Free

The Project Committee Toolkit teaches you how to manage successful committees using the "committee concept" process. Committees are one of the most effective ways to organize, deliberate and make decisions. But too often, committee success is hampered by conflict and bureaucracy. When you follow the committee concept process, you’ll learn to avoid these pitfalls and ensure that your committees are properly formed, managed and staffed. Get lifetime access to a growing committee management curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Project Management The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The Fast Track Project Toolkit teaches you how to deliver on-time, on-plan projects using "strategic project fast tracking". The fast track approach is a time-saving methodology, designed specifically for "real world" project circumstances - when you are being asked to do more than time and resources may allow. Fast tracking is the way to work around these obstacles and deliver prioritized results. Get lifetime access to a growing project planning curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.