How to Survive Giving Constructive Criticism in a Team Meeting

by Allison Doyle, CCM
Conducting a team meeting can be challenging, especially when it comes time to hand out criticism. Knowing the right steps to approaching this task can mean the difference between motivating your employee or “calling him/her out” and leaving the individual embarrassed. Here are some tips on how to survive giving constructive criticism in a team meeting.
Bookend your criticism with positives

The art of pointing out an employee’s flaws while still encouraging him or her to improve is a delicate one, especially in a group environment. Layering your criticism by acknowledging strong traits while touching on shortcomings is often a successful formula. This is how you bookend your criticism with positives.  First, comment on what your employee did right in the situation; his or her strong points. Then, comment on the area that was left wanting, and offer advice for turning it around next time. Lastly, end by going back to a strength and applauding his or her good work.
Talk about the situation, not the person

If you’re going to confront an employee about past performance during a team meeting, avoid digging too deep into personal behavior. Instead, narrow your focus to one or two situations where his or her performance was negatively impacted by that behavior. When talking to your employee, only mention his or her actions during those specific instances. For example, don’t say, “Bob, you’re always focusing on the negatives and that’s why you don’t get sales.” Instead say, “Bob, it seemed like at your last client meeting, you spent too much time talking the customer out of buying. Maybe next time let him think up his own negatives while you just focus on the positives.” Throw this technique in the middle of mentioning positives in Bob’s behavior, and you have a winning formula.
Root for your employee and share the big picture

If you have an employee or a group of employees who are unmotivated and struggling at a specific task, they are probably feeling overwhelmed by that task. Get them out of the tunnel vision they’re experiencing and give them a project-wide or company-wide perspective on where their task fits and why it is important. Accomplish this with a team-building day or an out-of-office excursion to a golf course. You can even host your next meeting at a country club by checking on Your employees will enjoy this break from the usual, and their effectiveness and inspiration will be positively affected.
Put emphasis on the fact that their contributions are a big part of the result the whole team is working towards. And root for them. Let them know you are on their team and want them to succeed. This will strengthen their purpose and hopefully give your employees the jump-start they need.
No one wants to feel like they’re doing badly at their job. So, when giving out criticism, especially at a team meeting, only focus on one or two specific areas of improvement and shower them with encouragement. Letting your employees know they are valued even though they need to work on a few areas will go a long way in boosting morale and getting positive results.