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Giving Constructive Criticism: A Managers Guide

The Only Glory in Making a Mistake is What You Can Learn from It

Without failure, managers of apartment communities will be faced with the duties of both identifying deficiencies in tasks performed by onsite staff but they must also be prepared to deliver a correction to an employee that only targets the substandard action without leaving an employee feeling personally attacked and on the defensive.  After all, our higher expectations for our leasing consultants, maintenance technicians, and assistant managers are a function of the high esteem we hold for them all.  With that being said, no one is perfect, and anyone is capable of repeatedly making mistakes without the proper guidance and counseling, and this includes being sensitive to people really making honest mistakes.  So following these simple guidelines should bring light to an employee’s unacceptable actions without removing his or her motivation to seek professional self-improvement.

  1. Do not shame your employee.  Attaching the negative feeling of shame to what is likely an honest mistake serves no purpose other than to make the criticism seem personal.  It is important to focus on the performance itself, and NEVER the person.  You may find him or her to be contrite regardless, but ultimately he or she will be closer to adopting the common goal of eliminating the error in the future.
  2. If possible, make criticisms a private matter.  This is related to not shaming your employees.  Being mindful of the wonderful array of personalities we have in our apartment communities, some may be embarrassed by the public address of his or her mistakes.  Be careful in also making it obvious to his or her peers that you may be delivering some sort of correction or criticism.  Don’t make it look like he or she is being “called to the principal’s office.”  Even though the specifics may remain private, an employee’s peers may still see the person having to be corrected.
  3. Give one criticism at a time.  Do not dump a whole list on them at once.  Even if there is more than one deficiency, prioritize, and only deliver the correction for the negative action needing the most immediate attention.  This will eliminate your employee’s feeling of being overwhelmed by too many tasks to correct.
  4. Once you have made the criticism, do not keep bringing it up.  Again, your employees truly want to do his or her best for you, and one criticism is almost always enough to have him or her make the necessary improvements.  Once you verify that the action is currently being corrected or has been corrected, there is no reason to revisit the topic.  It is already obvious by their immediate action the lesson will not be forgotten.
  5. Be flexible in the manner you deliver a criticism.  Some employees really do well to know the reasoning why the correction needs to be made.  It is not to say they want to question your reasoning, but rather he or she may see it as a greater learning opportunity.  Others may simply just need a simple explanation of what correction needs to be made without the nuisance of details.  Again, this is not a sign of disrespect as some employees feel best reacting to criticism with immediate action and reserve explanations for a later time.  But you know your people and you know the best way to approach each of their personalities.

Ultimately, consider these things in the context of the Golden Rule.  Give criticisms like you would want to receive criticisms.  Addressing criticisms in this manner will eliminate the appearance of making it personal and will allow your employees to maintain dignity through his or her professional improvement.  Then all can be focused on the apartment community’s common goals.

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