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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.


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How to Give Criticism Effectively

Giving constructive criticism is an integral part of improving staff performance and increasing productivity — but it’s not always easy to do. To help you give constructive criticism effectively, you can follow a process made up of three steps:

  1. observe the individual’s behaviour,
  2. review your assumptions prior to meeting with the individual, and 
  3. make sure you give the criticism constructively.

1. Observe behaviour

When giving criticism, it’s important that you first observe the individual’s behaviour. This is so you can rely on your personal observations to determine whether or not criticism is necessary, and so that you can substantiate what you include in the criticism.

To observe behavior effectively, follow four simple guidelines:

  • observe the behaviour yourself — If you’re planning to give criticism, rely on your own observations of the person’s behavior rather than on the observations of others.
  • withhold judgment — Use your own experience and knowledge to assess the behavior you’ve observed and don’t pass judgment until all facts are known and the criticism is substantiated.
  • record specific examples — When observing the individual, note examples or instances of the behavior you’ll be criticizing. You can refer to these examples later on when giving the criticism. Use quotations to support your criticism and recreate the incident where possible.
  • plan to give the criticism yourself — When you’re ready to meet the individual, do so yourself — don’t pass the responsibility on to someone else.


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Interviews and Unfair Practices

Legal issues

The last thing any company needs is a lawsuit brought against it for unfair hiring practices. The interview process should be an objective one that follows formal guidelines for assessing job candidates’ suitability.

Employment legislation that deals with the hiring process differs from country to country. It’s also important to keep up to date with this legislation, which may change regularly, and to seek the advice of legal professionals if anything is unclear.

The consequences for companies of unfair or illegal interviewing practices can be severe. The main legal issues for interviewers to consider relate to four areas of concern.


You should avoid asking candidates questions that aren’t directly related to whether their skills, qualifications, and experience make them suitable for a particular job.

Other questions to avoid include “Are you physically fit?” “What’s your marital status?” “What’s your birth date?” and “Have you ever been arrested?” Unless they clearly indicate an ability or inability to perform a task. This is so because it’s possible you might use them to exclude certain candidates based on criteria unrelated to a job’s real requirements. Such actions are potentially illegal.


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5 Common Interviewing Errors

As an interviewer, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Being aware of some of the common errors interviewers make can help ensure you don’t fall into the same traps during your interviews.

Lack of preparation

Not preparing properly is one of the most common mistakes. No interview is likely to be a success if you haven’t read the candidate’s resume, you’re unfamiliar with the job requirements, and you don’t know what questions to ask.

Asking ineffective questions

Asking questions that don’t elicit the information you require can waste time. And if too many of your questions fall in this category, the interview probably won’t reveal whether the candidate is really suitable for the job.

Ineffective questions often result from these types of questions on the part of the interviewer:

  • Diverging from focus — If you don’t have a plan and don’t use a job description, it’s very easy to diverge from what’s relevant during an interview.
  • Asking closed-ended questions — Interviewers often make the mistake of asking close-ended questions, which prompt a candidate to respond with just a “yes” or “no.” These questions often begin with words like “did you,” “have you,” or “are you.”
  • Failing to ask “why” — Interviewers who ask “what” questions and forget also to ask “why” miss out on a lot of information. They focus on what candidates did, but not on what their motivations and reasoning were.

Strategies to help

Three main strategies can help you avoid asking ineffective interview questions:

  • prepare some questions in advance to guide you as you move through the interview;
  • use the job description for the position that’s available to check that all the questions relate directly to actual job requirements, and
  • be flexible — let what the candidate tells you spark new questions.

Talking too much

Another common error interviewers make is talking too much instead of listening. Your main purpose in an interview is to get information from the candidate.

Along with talking too much about the company or themselves, interviewers sometimes put words in a candidate’s mouth. Another trap related to talking too much is spending too much time building rapport at the beginning of the interview.

You can improve your listening when you’re conducting an interview by following a couple of simple steps:

  • remind yourself that your role is to get the candidate speaking and to find out how well this person could perform the job that’s available, and
  • make sure you take active interest in the candidate, listen carefully, and take notes when necessary.