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Criticize Constructively and Not in Front of Others

Categories: Other, Blog

I always hope to learn from my mistakes. Similarly, anything I count as a failure in my career has been a great learning experience. There have been moments where I have received constructive criticism, which helped me, because I was open to hearing it. I feel lucky that the people who provided this type of feedback to me, did it in a professional and meaningful way.

They both complimented and criticized me because it is important to provide positive feedback if you are going to provide negative feedback. They also did this in private - not in front of others or in manner meant to embarrass someone. This is important.

During my career, I have worked at firms where partners thought young associate attorneys would be motivated by providing negative feedback in group settings. It came across as “so and so did this _________ [fill in the blank], and you should too if you want to have problems here.” Of course, it had the opposite effect, scaring other associates.  At one firm it caused a number of the associates to look for and find positions with other firms. I am not saying the feedback was wrong but criticizing someone in front of others is harmful to that person and negatively affects other similarly situated employees.  It can also damage the reputation of the firm.

The next time you need to provide criticism or negative feedback to an employee or someone you manage, do it in private, as well as in a constructive manner. I would never think to broadcast an issue to others instead of directly and privately with someone I work with or who works under me. The goal is to help the person improve and succeed, but how you deliver the message may or may not have your hoped for and intended results. You need to think through how you constructively criticize people because it can help your people and your business improve.

As always, this post and others can be found on my blog,  BusinessLawGuy'sBlog .  


About the author: Neal Bookspan is a partner at the Phoenix, Arizona law firm of Jaburg Wilk . He assists clients with business issues, commercial litigation, workouts and bankruptcy litigation. Neal can be reached at 602.248.1000