Praise specifically, criticize generally

Nov 30, 2020

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Naval Ravikant, founder, investor, and progressive thinker, came up with this phrase in response to a Warren Buffett quote from a Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, "Praise by name, criticize by category.";

It's a fantastic way to approach people management and the art of giving feedback.

Twitter Rules:
Praise specifically, criticize generally. Don't respond to negativity. Say it as if to their face. Be original. Don't debate.

— Naval (@naval) November 16, 2016

As team members within an organization, we struggle to provide constructive feedback. It's easy to tell someone how great of a job they're doing. But, how do you deal with someone when they're not meeting expectations?

Regardless of your position, knowing the best way to praise and criticize will go a long way.

Praise Specifically When giving positive feedback to a coworker be specific. Tell them and others (if possible) exactly who did well. What did they do so well that it was noteworthy? What were the implications?

Being specific makes the feedback more meaningful. It also helps to establish a clear cause-and-effect connection. The more public or known you can make the praise, the larger the positive impact on the organization.

Rather than...

Alex, thanks so much for getting your project done quickly.

Go with...

Hey team! Alex was a huge help this month. Their willingness to adjust work priorities enabled us to complete the campaign on time and hit our quota for the quarter. Thanks so much!

Criticize Generally

While being direct with feedback can be helpful, it's also necessary to take an individual's ego into account.

It can be very powerful to criticize actions in a group setting. Taking a larger-scope approach means that no individual needs to be sacrificed for the good of the group. It also means that the group can quickly learn what changes need to take place.

Rather than...

Alex, you really let us down this month by falling behind on your tasks.

Go with...

Hey team, this was not a great month for us. Since not everyone completed their assigned tasks, we did not hit expectations. This makes things difficult for all members of the team and can have an impact on our business.

Zoom In and Out

It takes time to understand when to take which approach. Be mindful of who you're working with and their personalities. This can help to guide you as you look to give feedback and help them to grow. Remember, none of these rules are hard and fast, so do what seems best for your team.

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