HT PowerJobs | Craft your critique carefully
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HT PowerJobs | Craft your critique carefully

"Constructive criticism should aim to help rather than hurt," says Dr Jay K Mitra, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Strategy, Faculty of Management Studies, DU, writes Rahat Bano.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2006 21:04 IST
Rahat Bano

1. A critique "is not a chimney-clearing act in disguise." So, a critic must double-check the real purpose of his criticism. The aim of feedback is to "help" and not "hurt". But many a time, tendering disapproval is a catharsis and is not linked to the developmental needs of the one at the receiving end.

2. "Praise in public, reprimand in private." This deed maximises the positive effect and minimises the off-putting outcome of a response.

3. "Focus on the actions of a person and not on the nature." This universal principle means that one should keep the focus of criticism on the observable, measurable, data-based, and modifiable behaviour of an individual. It restrains an evaluator to hypothesise about the personality, motive, attitude etc. that can never be fully ascertained. Therefore, your comment should be specific and not a vague impressionistic generalisation.

4. The "ego-strength" of an average Indian is pretty fragile. An admonition from a senior often leads to a feeling of "worthlessness" defeating the objective of "constructive criticism". Asians find the Western principle of "right to the point" as very threatening. We prefer sweet nothings before talking business. In the West, the Sandwich Principle of "Start with a positive; place the negatives in between; conclude with positive" is also a strict no-no. Westerners say that you can't savour good feedback in the beginning; over time, employees will discover that their boss is 'buttering the bread before it is knifed'. They suggest that it is better to start with a person's modifiable weaknesses, let them sink in, and then go on to his strengths. This is supposed to restore morale, and conclude with an action plan of what one would "continue doing," what one should "stop doing" and finally what one would "start doing". It is a sound rule provided the receiver does not feel too devastated or defensive due to the initial barrage of rebukes. If that hap pens, all subsequent ap preciation seems bo gus. With the Indian psyche, starting on sour note usually re sults in a scenario of quiet damage or quarrelsome defence.

5. Finally, like cooking most In dian dishes, a lot of preparation time is required for constructive criticism.

First Published: Sep 05, 2006 20:49 IST