How To Give Constructive Criticism To Specific Personalities
Sep 27, 2022 · 9 mins read ·People Management
It goes without saying that your employees love getting great feedback and recognition for the work they’ve done - after all, who doesn’t?
But what’s not quite so popular is constructive feedback. Indeed, the majority of people can’t help but take this as an admonishment that they’ve done something wrong.
And as someone working in Human Resources, you probably know, too, that delivering constructive feedback - or criticism as your people see it - can be just as hard when you’re on the other side.
It’s hard not to take constructive criticism personally. It feels like an affront to our work ethic, ability or even personality. So how do you, as an HR professional, deliver feedback that is acted upon, without your employees acting up?
How to give constructive criticism to different personalities at work
Before you jump in feet first, the important thing is to know your audience. Personality types in the workplace vary wildly and you will need to modify your tone and delivery depending on who you’re giving feedback to.
Generally speaking, your employees can be broken down into four main groups with differing styles of communication based on their personality.
In this post we will take a look at each one of these types and see how best to communicate feedback (or constructive criticism) to them depending on their personality traits.
Do keep in mind that as humans we never usually have both feet firmly in one category or another and some of your people might be a blend of one or more ‘types’.
The Amiable Personality
Personality traits: Good natured, supportive, pleasant, content with their daily routine, dislikes causing issues or ‘drama’.
Potential issues: If you’re not an amiable personality type yourself, they might find it a little difficult to work and communicate with you. This goes for the rest of the team too.
Their response to feedback: Amiable types are typically emotionally sensitive. Of all the types they are the ones who will most likely take constructive criticism personally and feel like they have failed.
How to deliver feedback: Make it clear that you are invested in their personal growth. That you want them to succeed. That you care about them and the quality of their work, and that you’re happy to communicate with them as they work on improving the issue at hand.
The Analytical Personality
Personality traits: Detail-oriented, accurate, usually competent and expecting of the same from others.
Potential issues: Analytical types can set very high or even unrealistic standards. They can be prone to procrastination because they get too involved in the planning or analytical stage of a project rather than getting the actual job done.
Their response to feedback: If your feedback is centered upon trying to force an analytical type into making quicker decisions and getting the job done rather than endlessly planning and analyzing tasks, they can be extremely uncomfortable.
How to deliver feedback: Back up your feedback and ideas for moving forward at a less glacial pace with evidence as to why this will work and why it’s necessary. Provide examples and support your observations with data if possible.
The Driver Personality
Personality traits: Goal-oriented, leaders, confident, productive and energetic.
Potential issues: Driver types can be prone to delegating tasks that they don’t find stimulating enough. They’re not detail-oriented and prefer being kept in the loop by being presented with the bigger picture. They can also be impulsive and can come across as rude or abrasive.
Their response to feedback: If your feedback is long-winded and involved, many drivers will find it irritating and probably won’t end up taking anything you say onboard.
How to deliver feedback: Keep constructive criticism concise, direct and meaningful. Tell them what they need to modify and why in as few words as possible.
The Expressive Personality
Personality traits: Energetic, communicative, spontaneous and creative. They love talking!
Potential issues: Expressive types can have problems focusing on the task in hand and are generally not great at planning. They have a tendency to not let others put their point across and their boundless energy can be tiring and even come across as fake.
Their response to feedback: Providing they have an outlet for input, the expressive will usually have a fairly okay response to your constructive criticism. Their energy often translates into wanting to do the best job they can so they should be willing to take it on the chin.
How to deliver feedback: Because expressives like to be the one doing the talking, make sure your feedback includes questions for them - ask them what they think they need to improve upon and how they can achieve that. However, ensure you keep a tight rein on the conversation so they don’t go off on a tangent!
General tips for delivering constructive feedback
As we’ve seen, different personality types will often react in different ways to your feedback. However, there are some general tips for delivering constructive criticism that you should keep in mind.
- Start the conversation empathetically and thank the person for meeting with you.
- Make it clear that you know these sorts of conversations are never great.
- If there is something that the employee is doing well, deliver praise before feedback.
- Concede that you may have a part to play in the problem, if indeed that is true.
- Clearly explain the issue and back it up with specific, recent examples and facts.
- Make it clear what the consequences of the issue are and ensure the employee understands why, what, and how they need to change.
- Lay out your expectations and communicate the impact that the continued behavior or problems would have on the company or coworkers.
When it comes to the meeting itself, make sure this is conducted privately and discreetly in a one-on-one setting. When the meeting is finished, exit with a smile and give no outward signs to anyone who might be watching what the nature of the meeting was.
This will enable the employee to either address the issue with their coworkers or work on improvements privately.
Moving forward after delivering constructive feedback
It’s important to demonstrate to the employee in question that you’ve noticed any improvements and positive changes. Make sure they know that you’re paying attention and that their efforts are not going unrecognized.
How to give constructive criticism at work: conclusion
Giving someone feedback, whether it’s on their performance or personality is hard. But it doesn’t have to result in a huge loss of face for the receiver.
If you understand the personality type of the person you’re giving feedback to, and you deliver your comments and observations in a way that is palatable to them, you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing a positive outcome.
And that’s good for you, good for the team, good for the company, and, most of all, good for the employee and their career.
I'm a UK-based content writer here at Hezum. I've an interest in all things HR and company culture.