It’s challenging to give (and receive) criticism in any language. However, in the workplace, this skill is integral to your success as an employee, colleague, or manager. Today’s post will be especially useful for advanced English language learners - particularly those who supervise other employees in the workplace. While this post discusses negative feedback, keep in mind that negative feedback is also called constructive criticism or suggestions for growth in professional contexts. While we may want to tell somebody that they’re lazy or inexperienced, that would be unprofessional and offensive in the workplace. As you read, notice how using questions and careful, strategic language will help you to communicate feedback in a clear, but polite way.

In the following examples, imagine a manager giving an employee constructive feedback. And remember, there’s a big difference between the feedback we want to give and the feedback we actually give.

  1. What you want to say: You’re being lazy.

    • What you can actually say:

      • I’ve noticed that your productivity has decreased recently. Is there a reason for that?

      • You seem uninterested in your work. Is there anything I can do to help motivate you?

      • I have to let you know that your productivity has been a problem lately. I’m worried that the team won’t complete the project on time if you don’t make a change.

      • You’ve been disengaged from your work. Please think of strategies to stay engaged and focused.

  2. What you want to say: Your work is low quality.

    • What you can actually say:

      • I’m worried that the quality of your work isn’t meeting company standards.

      • I’ve noticed that the quality of your work has declined. Do you have any ideas for getting back on the right track?

      • I’m confident in your ability to produce good work, but your recent projects haven’t met my expectations. Let’s try to think of ways to improve.

  3. What you want to say: You’re unreliable.

    • What you can actually say:

      • Lately, you haven’t been arriving to work on time or meeting your deadlines. It’s really important that we’re able to trust you to do these things successfully.

      • You’re finishing your tasks late, and your colleagues are having a difficult time completing their projects. Remember that we all count on each other for our success. Is there a reason it’s been challenging for you to meet deadlines lately?

      • Sometimes, when you say you’re going to finish a task, you don’t actually finish it. If this is happening because you’re stressed or overworked, please let me know so that we can adjust your workload.

  4. What you want to say: You aren’t advancing in the company.

    • What you can actually say:

      • I think that you’re in a really comfortable place in the company right now, but you have so much potential to advance. What are some things you can do to get to the next level?

      • I’m concerned that your professional growth has plateaued. Let’s discuss some strategies to help you move forward. Are you interested in advancing in the company? If so, let’s discuss areas you can improve in so that you’re a stronger candidate for promotion

  5. What you want to say: You share too much personal information.

    • What you can actually say:

      • Remember that it’s really important to have limits between your personal and professional life. When you share too much personal information, you risk sounding inappropriate or unprofessional.

      • Lately, you’ve shared a lot of personal information in the workplace. I know it can be challenging to maintain the boundary between your personal and professional life, but please try to be more careful about what you share in a professional environment.

  6. What you want to say: You’re too competitive.

    • What you can actually say:

      • I think it’s excellent to be ambitious, but lately, you’ve been overly competitive. Your colleagues feel as if you’re only focused on your personal success, rather than the success of the team.

      • Some of your recent comments have come off as a bit aggressive. I know you’re a really competitive person, but please try to manage the way you express this at work.

      • Remember, work isn’t just about the next promotion. It’s also about creating a good dynamic with your colleagues. Please keep that in mind!

  7. What you want to say: You have a negative attitude.

    • What you can actually say:

      • Some of the comments you’ve made recently don’t set a positive tone in our office.

      • You’ve recently made some negative comments at work. Is there a reason that you’re feeling this way?

      • You’ve seemed really frustrated at work lately. It’s okay to be frustrated, but please do your best to be optimistic. If I can support you in any way, please let me know.

  8. What you want to say: You’re inexperienced.

    • What you can actually say:

      • I know that you’re just starting in this field, and it’s okay that you don’t know everything yet. I’m confident that you’ll be able to learn the ropes!

      • I know that there’s a steep learning curve when you start a new career. I’m here to support you and answer any questions you might have.

      • I’ve noticed that there are a couple areas where you could use more experience. Let’s work together to help you move forward.


Written By Mariah Wika