Knowing the difference between feedback and criticism is mandatory if you are looking to improve your work as a professional or if you want to improve your team as a manager or team leader.
What is feedback?
As per Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of feedback in a professional context is the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source, also the information so transmitted.
As the definition clearly states, feedback is about one professional giving another professional relevant information with the goal of improving the quality of a piece of content (social media post design, blog post, project, software, song, book, etc).
Feedback is usually requested by the owner or creator of the respective piece of content. It’s an intermediary stage before the project is closed and delivered to the client. The person giving the feedback is either the manager or team member.
When there is a process in place, with clearly set stages (brainstorming, early draft, feedback, feedback implementation, final work), feedback is mandatory and given at a particular stage in the process.
What should your feedback contain?
Useful feedback doesn’t focus on the elements that could use improvement only. Your feedback should also acknowledge what the creator did right whether it’s choice of colour, overall vibe or tone, appropriate use of brand assets and style.
Start with the positive to put the creator in a relaxed frame of mind, build trust and show them your goal is to help them improve and grow.
After that, talk about what elements they should do further work on. Refrain from using What is wrong about your piece of content is….. Instead, use The elements which require further work are …..
Avoid ambiguity or general statements. Be specific and always explain your feedback: because the colours are not on-brand or because the copy for the social media post doesn’t observe the brand’s archetype, etc.
Suggest solutions or resources that can help the creator solve a particular problem or inspire them with a different approach.
What to consider when giving feedback
In a timely manner. Provide feedback immediately if possible when the work is fresh and the creator is open to suggestions and improvements.
Don’t use You or Should statements. Providing feedback with You did this or You should have done will make the other person feel attacked. When you centre your feedback on the other person, they will feel discouraged and their self-esteem and confidence will plummet. How are they going to implement your feedback if you’ve made them feel like a failure?
Focus on positive motivation. Your feedback should empower the creator to take your suggestions and improve the respective piece of content.
Be specific and focus on facts. How will the creator improve the content if your feedback is vague or general or based on your opinion? Your opinion is not feedback. An opinion is a personal view about something which is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. Your opinion could be influenced by personal preferences or biases.
Always say why. This is the part where the person receiving your feedback learns the most from. When your explanation is on point, you help the creator to self-correct next time. If you explain that the campaign doesn’t get the green light because it doesn’t address the customer’s main pain point, you set the team for success with their next campaign. The first thing they will be asking themselves before presenting their campaign idea to you will be Is this a relevant solution for our customers?
What is criticism?
As per Merriam-Webster dictionary, criticism is the act of criticizing usually unfavourably. Criticism is focused on highlighting faults without offering solutions.
What’s the difference between feedback and criticism?
If we look at the respective piece of content as the result of a process, feedback is at an intermediary stage in the creation process, before the content is done and delivered to the client. Criticism is given after the process has ended and the project has been delivered.
Feedback is requested by the owner of the project or provided mandatory by the project manager or team members. Criticism is not requested, it is given by the project’s client.
The goal of feedback is to improve the end result. The goal of criticism is to highlight the shortcomings of the end result and sometimes of the creator himself.
After receiving feedback on their work, creators feel empowered to improve and do better next time having been given relevant tools to do so. Because criticism only focuses on what’s wrong with the project or piece of content, it could negatively affect the creator’s self-esteem and lead to low confidence levels.
Providing feedback requires communication skills that need exercising. Feedback is a combination of fact-based explanation, solutions and empathy. Criticism is mostly negative, judgemental and speaks more about the person giving it than the person at the receiving end.
In a professional environment, and especially inside the workplace, feedback is the most appropriate tool. Feedback creates trust, facilitates learning and growing and it’s the preferred manner in which more experienced professionals share their knowledge and expertise. It is motivating.
Criticism leads to low self-esteem and confidence among the employees and teaches them to use a negative way of communication. The professionals receiving criticism don’t learn anything and could foster resentment towards the person criticizing them and making them feel bad about themselves. It creates a toxic work environment and could affect the bottom line of the business.