3 Keys on How to Give Effective Criticism

“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”

Don’t start a feedback session that way. It’s a loaded question, and Millennials hate “bad” news. Giving criticism is never easy, but when you manage Millennials (and especially Second-Wave Millennials), your criticism could either improve their performance or it can cause them to quit. So, this is important stuff.

Criticism = Feedback

In an earlier blog post, we talked about how coaching is the new managing for Second-Wave Millennial team members. Because of how they were raised, Second-Wave Millennials expect their bosses to provide them with clear goals, a path to get there, and frequent feedback along the way.  In fact, that frequent feedback is one of the most important aspects of at-work coaching for Second-Wave Millennials.  

In fact, they want to know immediately when they’re not doing things well and they want their managers (or coaches) to provide them with information on exactly how to improve. They don’t want an annual performance review — they want a daily check-in. Since they were children, Millennials have gotten near-instantaneous feedback on their performance in school, at home and in their scheduled activities. They expect that to continue in the workplace.

As a manager, providing that frequent feedback and having open, honest communication are the best ways to ensure your team members have the information they need to succeed.

Here are a few ways to provide frequent feedback that’s productive, understood and actionable:

Be specific. Millennials will respond more readily to criticism if you as a manager (or coach) provide specific examples. As they work to understand their job, their place in the company and develop soft skills, make sure to point at specific projects, events or communications to help them understand your point.

Keep it private. Criticism should be given one-on-one, not in a group setting. Although Millennials are team-oriented, their individual performance should be assessed and discussed out of ear-shot of their coworkers.

Provide next steps. In addition to specific examples, Millennials respond positively to “next steps.” They have a mindset of growth and they crave specific instructions on how to improve, accomplish a given task or move toward a certain goal. In addition, make sure both you and your team member are taking notes during the discussion, and schedule a follow-up feedback session to go over those notes together.

Finally, make sure to give some context to the criticism. Help them understand why you are providing constructive criticism. Millennials like to know “why.” If they know you are looking out for their best interest, and help them learn and grow, there is no “bad” news.