Nobody likes having their ideas or methods challenged. It can be uncomfortable or even embarrassing. However, it is a part of professional growth and is also one of the most useful tools you have in becoming a more effective leader. Is there a difference between feedback and criticism? In many ways, the two are similar, but there are key differences, specifically in how they are communicated to the employee. 


Feedback is Purposeful, Criticism is Personal

If a member of your team approaches you about a problem with workload scheduling and feels like they are pulling most of the weight of the team, they can become frustrated with a perceived lack of follow-up by management. Feedback should involve the facts of the situation, and questions to show a desire for a deeper understanding. Criticism would be based on the emotions and feelings behind the actions. The intent in providing feedback is to invoke change in the parties involved, rather than relating an issue to an individual’s personality or skill set.


Feedback is Productive, Criticism is Not

The motivation behind feedback is to see solutions to problems or to praise the parts of your efforts that are perceived to be more on-track. The motivation of criticism is to simply point out problems without any reasonable idea toward a solution. Criticism is rarely provided in a positive light and more often is focused on areas of weakness. Addressing weakness is important in any position, however it should be done in an encouraging way.


Feedback Builds Up, Criticism Tears Down

When employees provide feedback to their managers, it is done with the purpose of bringing about positive change or just getting their voices heard. Feedback given to employees should be constructive as well as informative. Feedback gives credit where credit is due while addressing weaknesses in a professional manner. Criticism focuses on mostly on examples where employees are falling short and can diminish their morale within their position.  


Feedback is Often Solicited, Criticism Rarely Is

It is a rare thing that a manager would voluntarily open him or herself up to public scrutiny, but it is possible to find out what people think about you by asking for feedback. Frequent feedback is typically beneficial for all parties involved, creating an environment of transparency and openness.


While the differences are subtle, they exist; feedback and criticism are closely tied. In fact, one could argue that feedback and constructive criticism are one and the same. Learning the key differences between the two is a valuable and necessary skill every leader should have or develop.