Constructive criticism is not meant to cause harm. In the workplace, for example, it is meant to help another person improve his or her performance.
Unfortunately, if you don't say the right thing, at the right time, to the right person, your criticism could be taken the wrong way and you might risk losing an employee.
There are 8 things you can do to ensure that constructive criticism is truly constructive:
Be specific when bringing the issue to light. Deep down inside you know what you want to discuss with the other person. You need to be specific when providing criticism. If you are vague, if you dance around the subject, you aren't going to achieve the desired result.
Make it about the work, not the person. Stay away from personal accusations or assumptions about why the person's work might be lacking. Don't imply that they're lazy or don't care, just lay out the issue at hand and how it's affecting the business.
Start with something positive. Some have called it the "sandwich method," meaning you take two layers of positives about the employee and their work, and then in the middle you talk about the negative or what you don't like.
Discuss changes that can solve the problem. Remember, the whole point of constructive criticism is to be constructive. To do so, it is a must that you provide feedback that can solve the problem and help the person perform at a higher level.
Ask the employee for their own suggestions. It helps to make the employee part of the process. Give them a chance to come up with ways to solve the problem themselves, rather than you having to tell them exactly what to do.
Use a "straw man." Instead of talking directly about the employee's mistakes, which can seem personal, talk about the problem with anecdotes or examples from the news or pop culture.
Consider the timing. Let's face it, no one really wants to be criticized regardless of the time and place. However, avoid doing it front of other coworkers or in the middle of a stressful situation (you don't want to just blurt it out). You might also not want to do it on a Friday at 4:30, leaving them to stew all weekend.
Come to an agreement on how to avoid the same problem in the future. You want your constructive criticism to have a lasting impact, right? To improve the likelihood of this happening, come to an agreement on how to improve on the specified area. This goes along with point #2 above. Not only should you offer solutions, but you should take the time to discuss each one. In the end, both parties must agree on which steps to take next.
As somebody in a managerial position, giving constructive criticism is a big part of your job. You don't do this to harm others. You do this to help the person improve, which also has a positive impact on the company as a whole.