Constructive Criticism: Do you have the best delivery?

Giving Criticism

As we interact on a day-to-day basis with our colleagues, we may notice that one of us is doing something wrong or which does not benefit the team, making work more difficult than it should be.

For example, you may work with a fellow nurse who refuses to help when there is an admission or who disappears whenever there is an emergency or code situation with a patient.

This kind of behavior needs to be addressed or it will continue.

It is usually easier to report the behavior to your supervisor with the hope of letting them deal with it, but there are times the supervisor may not be there or you have to deal with it yourself since it affects you.

Your aim is to give constructive criticism so that they are aware of the behavior and can change it.

Your motive is to bring it up so that you can build your team’s health.
Not everyone will take your criticism in a positive way, but if it is done well, it is like good medicine and will cure the problem.

How to deliver criticism

When you give criticism, you want to be honest.

  • Tell the truth; don’t make stuff up to make them look bad. When you are honest, they will trust you more and take your words seriously.
  • Be humble in your delivery. Don’t talk down at them like you are perfect and they are not. Let them see that you are looking out for them.
  • Choose your words carefully. Avoid using negative phrases like, “your action puts me off.”  Make statements like, “I am concerned about this behavior.”
  • Be respectful to them and if you need to talk to them in a private place, it may be even better. This will communicate that you care about them and you want to support them.
  • Timing is important. Avoid giving criticism when you or the person are emotional; you may need to wait until the next day.

Putting criticism in words

Practice using the “sandwich technique.”

Tell them something that they do that is praiseworthy. Then deliver the critique, and then end with a positive point.

This sandwiches the negative between two positives.

An example is:

“Peter, I really do admire the way you talk to patients; you come across as being very caring.”

“However, whenever a patient’s condition turns for the worst, you seem to disappear. Like today, as soon as the patient’s respirations stopped, I could not find you, and yet we needed all the help that we could get. Thankfully, we were able to resuscitate the patient and they are fine now. But we would have valued your assistance.”

After giving the critique, end with praise. For example:

“Thanks for helping us with the admission that arrived soon after; you did a great job with that.”

Do you find that you have to give criticism? Please share your experiences.

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  1. This is a great article. Giving constructive feedback is often a typical part of the nursing work-day, although one that many of us avoid. I have felt uncomfortable in the past giving feedback, but I do like how you share that timing and speaking from the facts are ways to go about it. I also agree that choosing our words is a necessary feature, maybe even an acquired skill. Thanks for the ideas and tips. Have a healthy day, Elizabeth Scala

    • Joyce says:

      Elizabeth. You are right. It can be uncomfortable giving criticism, but as one practices doing it the right way, they get better.
      Thanks for sharing.