Delivering Criticism – 5 Mistakes Leaders Make When

Delivering criticism

Delivering Criticism – 5 Mistakes Leaders Make When

According to a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 92% of respondents agreed that negative feedback, when delivering criticism appropriately, is effective at improving performance.

It goes without saying that one of the most important aspects of leadership is being able to responsibly share criticism with staff, as well as the obvious words of encouragement.

Delivering criticism to your teams can either inspire greater confidence and address existing challenges or it could completely demotivate your employees. Therefore, it is very important in how you go about it.

Making mistakes on this front is not uncommon. Fortunately, there is a lot of good advice on how you might manage it to ensure that the criticism is received in a constructive manner and achieves the right outcomes.  Outlined below are five common mistakes leaders make when delivering criticism and some variations to the approach to help ensure better results.


Being emotional when delivering criticism

While it’s important to connect with your employees and team members when it comes to delivering criticism, keeping emotion out is vital. Criticism, for the most part, is not immediately viewed as positive, which is why even the slightest levels of emotion on your part (as the leader) can make things worse.

Mixing emotion with criticism may result in your words coming out the wrong way. Instead of perceiving it to be for their benefit, the recipient may take it as a personal attack. Therefore, maintaining a strict, emotion-free approach is essential with the goal of having your team member grow and improve. Remember not to make things personal.


Failing to throw in some positivity

There’s no rule when it comes to delivering criticism that mandates only focusing on the negative. Highlighting some positive attributes of the employee/team member you’re critiquing can go a long way in helping them keep a balanced perspective on the issue.

Focusing on what they’re doing right and contrasting this to where they’re falling short will inspire them to draw from their strengths and help them identify immediate steps to self- improvement.


Unclear criticism

Few things are more detrimental to leadership and employee advancement than unclear criticism. Under no circumstances can you expect an employee to rectify a shortcoming without clearly understanding where they are falling short.

Therefore be clear and concise on the criticism and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. If possible try to mimic their language as a way of ensuring alignment in understanding the gravity of the issue and what must be done to avoid the same happening again.


Failing to focus on desired outcomes

Every task must have a desired objective and outcome. Therefore, when delivering criticism it is important to maintain an outcome-based focus so that the employee understands what they have done wrong and what can be done to avoid the same thing happening again.

By doing so when delivering your critique, you immediately set up an environment that focusses not on the criticism but on the remedial strategy.


Failing to ask your employees how they feel

When delivering critical feedback, it is very important that you seek the views and opinions of the employee. This isn’t to provide an opportunity for their defence on the matter but to ensure that your language aligns with the understanding of what they need to achieve on the same and then to engage with the intervention required that will avoid a further repeat of the issue.

Furthermore, there is always a strong possibility that you may not have a complete understanding of all factors that have led to the current issue. So, if we can achieve alignment around the entire issue then there is a greater likelihood of a better resolution in the final solution.

Finally, it is entirely possible that your employee is performing poorly and acting in a specific way due to external factors that are outside their realm of control. Make it a point to ask them what’s going on. Remember, creating an open environment will lead to open dialogue and the ability to get to the root of the problem and then quickly to an acceptable solution.



Leadership isn’t easy, which is why only a few individuals are so great at it. Hopefully, this piece has provided some valuable insights that will help you become an even better leader.

For more information on leadership development, irrespective of the type of organisation you represent, feel free to visit our website or contact us and one of our representatives will be in touch!