Giving Criticism: Tip #3

16 Oct

Tip: If the exchange is unproductive then END IT and come back later:


When you are giving criticism and you find that the receiver is becoming upset, and the exchange is quickly deteriorating, it is best to end the exchange and visit it at another time- especially if the situation isn’t deemed as urgent.


Carolyn has completed her fourth week of a twelve-week sales training program. At the end of each training week, she meets with her manager, Ted, to review her activities. Carolyn works hard, but she tends to catch onto things more slowly than some of her counterparts. Her progress to date is average at best.

After having reviewed her numbers for the week, Ted, decides before moving to the last item on the agenda, to point out an error in how she had filled out the Sales Activity Report. While Ted is pointing out the error, tears start to well up, as Carolyn becomes visibly upset. Ted senses her discomfort and asks her if anything is wrong. Carolyn says, “I’m sorry. I’ve just lost it. I’m having some personal problems at home and I didn’t mean to allow them to enter into our meeting. I’m sorry.”

How should Ted handle the situation?

If the situation is urgent, the best thing the giver should do is explain that, “I will be back in about 10 minutes so we can finish this conversation”.  Doing this allows the receiver to regain control of her emotions.


Why not offer the receiver an opportunity to go to the restroom?  Because this would require having the receiver leave the meeting room and walk down a hallway. Making the receiver visible to other employees may fuel the rumor mill as employee’s question why the receiver looks upset.


After taking that 10 minute break, Ted decides when returning to the meeting that the situation isn’t urgent so he says to Carolyn that the situation can wait until tomorrow.  Before ending their meeting, a new time is set for the next day.


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