Feedback Vs. Criticism

Feedback Vs. Criticism

Last week I shared some tips on how to handle criticism. Today I want to talk about Criticism’s sexy older brother, Feedback.


I love feedback! Feedback is data. Sure, sometimes feedback may not be easy to hear. Sometimes it is not something you want to hear. But feedback is so helpful to both your personal and professional growth. 


Sometimes we put too much emotion into that feedback and think that it means something about us. It means we aren’t competent or capable. But if we take the emotion out of it we can see “Oh! That’s feedback”. Feedback is not negative or positive. Feedback is just data. Data that you can utilize to make changes or adjustments to your company policies and procedures. 


As a leader, it is your job to both solicit feedback from your employees (and clients) as well as provide feedback to your team members. Remember from last week’s newsletter that being critical is easy but not productive. Being critical can have the opposite effect on performance from what you are trying to accomplish.


So, here are 5 things to consider as you prepare to share feedback with someone.

    1. Productive feedback focuses on the desired outcome. Criticism is focused on what you don’t want. Example: You ask an employee for a report on your accounts receivable and any past due invoices. They provide you with a report but it doesn’t give you the information you need. Feedback will clarify what you want. “Thank you for sending this report. I am trying to predict revenue for the following month so I need to see which payments are coming in, including any past due accounts that need to be collected on.” Criticism points out that what you got is not what you wanted. “This is not what I asked for. The past due accounts are missing.”
    2. Feedback focuses on the future. Criticism focuses on the past. Example: You’ve hired a new front desk person to schedule appointments for your office. They neglected to add the standard 15 minute buffer time between appointments to allow for cleaning. Feedback will acknowledge the mistake but focus on a future without the error: “We need to make sure that there is always a 15-minute buffer between appointments going forward so that we can appropriately clean the workspaces.” Criticism only focuses on the mistake as if there is no hope for repair. “You didn’t schedule in the 15-minute buffer time and now we will never get caught up to the schedule.”
    3. Feedback helps build strengths. Criticism focuses on weakness. Example: You asked your office manager to help organize a client appreciation day. As the day gets closer, you realize that the caterer has not been paid. Feedback will emphasize the person’s strength and point out how it can be utilized. “Organization and attention to detail are strengths of yours that will come in handy as we iron out all of the event details. Let’s prioritize your assignments so this one gets your main focus until it is all settled.” Criticism focuses on the weakness. “It seems like you aren’t able to handle all of the assignments I’ve given you.”
  • Feedback says “We can turn this ship around.” Criticism says “The ship is sunk. Let’s go home.”
  • Feedback inspires improvement. Criticism inspires self-doubt.


Everyone wants a boss who will encourage them to learn from their mistakes and feel empowered to make improvements. Being a boss who is good at giving feedback will do just that. On the other hand, being a critical boss will lead to frustrated employees and a toxic culture in the workplace.