Give and receive meaningful criticism

For many people, the word criticism has a purely negative connotation. For this reason, in project management and elsewhere in the professional world, it is often preferable to speak of "feedback".
But no matter what you call it, criticism and feedback are important for making progress and working together in a significant way. That is why project managers are specifically trained to give and receive it. This should be positive as well as negative. The ability and also the willingness to listen to criticism, to grasp it and then to implement it are essential for project management. Many people find it difficult to give negative criticism and equally difficult to accept it. Therefore, the topic is very important for managers who have to deal with criticism. They must learn to give well-balanced, constructive criticism.
Two men are talking to each other.


Criticise correctly

One of the principles of criticism is that it should always be constructive. Criticism must be specific, i.e., it must relate to very concrete facts and behaviour. No change in behaviour can occur on the basis of very general criticism, positive or negative. If a behaviour is criticised, the criticism should always refer specifically to this behaviour and never become personal. Reproaches are not effective anyway. Even in heated meetings or feedback discussions, the project manager must keep a cool head and not allow himself to be carried away by unprofessional behaviour. Criticism should always be structured in such a way that it does not lead to anger, frustration or even arguments. Criticism must contain concrete suggestions for improvement and encourage the criticised person to give these suggestions a chance in the future. Always remain objective!

Accepting and implementing criticism

There is always someone on the other side who receives criticism. Criticism should always be received calmly and objectively. Emotions have no place in discussions about criticism. If the criticism is appropriate and objective, then you should also react to it accordingly. Draw consequences; get help and advice or try to make changes. The only and at the same time biggest problem in accepting criticism is one's own ego and emotions. As a professional project manager, you must not get carried away with rejecting all criticism, trying to invalidate it at all costs or arguing against it. Justifications and excuses are now out of place. Listen to everything calmly, ask questions and take your time to decide whether and if so, what is justified and what should be implemented. If you get involved, you can often gain valuable insights about yourself.

Criticism concepts and criticism training

Many companies implement modern feedback concepts. At least in theory, it is possible for employees to evaluate the boss. The purpose of these concepts is to really listen to all suggestions for improvement and ideas in order to then implement the best ones. Especially in such modern work structures, but also in project groups, it is of great importance that criticism can be dealt with objectively - from all sides. Critical competence can be trained. Training courses and workshops on this topic deal with many different aspects. It is about giving feedback in a structured and constructive way. This means, above all, that criticism must be formulated in such a way that the recipient understands it as feedback and not as an attack. Criticism should not evoke a defensive attitude. At the same time, training is given to listen to criticism and learn to understand it. Ultimately, part of the training in critical faculties is dedicated to the goal of being able to continue to work together on a professional level in the spirit of the project, even in the case of disagreements.

Dealing professionally with criticism

It is certainly not easy to overcome the big hurdle - one's own emotions. Even hardened professionals can feel attacked, and of course it's also quite possible to be attacked in a really unprofessional way.
Everyone's personality plays a role here, of course. But you can also work on yourself a lot in this area if you want to. The ability to give criticism, to receive it, to respond to it and to see it as a normal part of daily work can be learned. Those who really manage to consider and implement genuine constructive criticism detached from personal sensitivities can work more purposefully. Above all, they can also have a more productive relationship with colleagues if the professional level is considered separately from the personal level. 
Those who accept criticism for themselves can also develop themselves more quickly and become better leaders. Critical competence always plays together with conflict avoidance, with communication in general and with staff leadership. A good leader must be able to criticise. Balanced criticism is best, combining praise and blame in such a way that the person being criticised can understand and accept the criticism as honest help and as a suggestion for improvement. Empathy and emotional intelligence are important and should also be trained. Those who can empathise with their counterparts are more likely to be able to formulate criticism in such a way that it is not misunderstood.

Sinnvolle Kritik - Das Logo der IAPM.
Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management, Criticism, Feedback

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