How Do You Like to Receive Criticism?

Personality types can teach us how to better understand and work with colleagues—and how to offer constructive criticism. I was curious about how personality types impact how feedback is interpreted, so I looked it up online, and found this page, showing how best to offer feedback to the different Myers-Briggs personality types.

My own personality, INFJ, doesn’t like criticism, but is receptive to instructions that bypass criticism altogether. Instead of telling me what I did wrong or sub-par, the best way to better my performance is to simply to tell me what to do differently next time. As in: “Thanks for the report from last week. I was thinking, for the next one, it would be great if you could add more detail and more in-depth instructions at the end.” Versus: “Last week’s report was a big disappointment. It was scant on detail and lacking the needed instructions at the end. We really need to do better next time.”

Which of those two approaches would youprefer with yourpersonality type?

The question for me is why criticism is necessary at all. Why not just focus on what to do, rather than first noting what was done wrong? Managers could always note aspects of a project that should be done differently next time without first criticizing, couldn’t they? From your own experience—or your own perspective—what personality types need more than instructions on what to do differently next time, and actually feed off of criticism?

Do you use personality assessments in your organization? If so, do you have segments on how the different personalities like to receive feedback? Are there any tips you could provide to other organizations on using the information gained from personality assessments to make feedback between colleagues go smoother?

In addition to using understanding of personalities to make feedback more productive, organizations might want to think about whether they encourage gratuitous criticism. I’ve noticed that some companies encourage criticism as a sign of competence and being on the ball. That type of culture can lead to projects being stymied as a dozen people on an e-mail to review a minor document offer persnickety or unnecessary critiques. In addition to slowing the completion of work, the organization gung-ho for hyper-criticism risks creating an unlivable work environment. Many talented, creative people have limited tolerance for extended back-and-forth exchanges and revisions. You risk alienating your producers of new, exciting ideas with heavy criticism. Those sensitive souls may stop putting forward new ideas because the aftermath of presenting the ideas is so miserable—having to endure the ideas and completed work getting picked apart by people who may just be offering criticism as a form of posturing for their boss. Does that sound familiar to you? I’ve definitely experienced the phenomenon of the posturer-critic, and I bet many of you have, too. 

One idea is to train managers to teach teams to offer specific advice for doing something different, rather than criticism. So instead of saying: “The project was low quality and delivered late,” the colleague of the project leader would say: “I have a couple ideas for how we can do the next project differently. Here are some things we now handle in-house that we can outsource next time, and I think I can create a spreadsheet we can all share to stay on task to avoid being late.”

Managers could even make a rule about offering specific, workable instructions and advice instead of criticism. I’ve noticed that those offering criticism to look good to the boss often will avoid doing so if they are forced to offer an idea of what to do instead—especially if what to do instead means more work for them personally.

What pointers can you offer other Learning professionals on how to not only train managers and employees to work with others better, but how to train for the productive, injury-free delivery of feedback?

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