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Responses to Constructive and Destructive Criticism

A key difference between criticism and corrective feedback is that criticism is typically given for larger issues, rather than for isolated incidences of performance. To be effective though, criticism must be constructive.

Constructive criticism is far more productive than criticism that’s destructive. It encourages cooperation and mutual respect, which is vital when you’re dealing with workplace issues that could have major consequences if not dealt with correctly.

Constructive criticism

Giving constructive criticism involves delivering criticism in a reasoned, professional manner that’s designed to help the recipient overcome a problem. It involves offering suggestions or positive feedback.

This creates an atmosphere of mutual respect between the person giving the criticism and the person receiving it. So it facilitates the smooth and effective resolution of the problem. It also creates a positive working environment, which makes things easier for the recipient and the person who gave the criticism.

The most important factor in giving constructive criticism is the attitude of the person giving it. If your real aim is to vent frustration or to “punish” someone for a serious mistake, it’s likely the effect will be destructive on the recipient. But if your aim is to solve a problem or prevent future problems, it’s likely your criticism will have a constructive effect.

Destructive criticism

Destructive criticism fails to offer positive feedback or suggestions. This type of criticism is given in an ill-considered and damaging manner. It has a degrading effect on the recipient and can aggravate the problem that’s being addressed.

In turn, this can create a negative working climate, which makes things difficult for both the recipient and the person giving the criticism.

Giving destructive criticism can have several effects on the recipient:

  • it can hurt the recipient’s feelings,
  • it can promote feelings of inadequacy in the recipient, with negative consequences on this person’s work, 
  • it can lower the recipient’s self-esteem, and
  • it can lead the recipient to withdraw from others, which can harm communication.