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Being Too Nice—and How to Provide Constructive Criticism

June 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — sunrise @ 2:13 pm
Constructive Criticism

We’re encouraged from childhood to be nice to people, but sometimes kindness goes too far. Many dentists are hurting themselves—and their practice—by being too nice.

Do you have trouble saying “no” to others? Do you get stuck in long conversations with salespeople? Or perhaps you have a team member who is under-performing, and you wimp out when it comes time to provide criticism or lay down the law.

Even if such a “kind” approach is meant to save their feelings, being too nice isn’t just hurting you—it’s also hurting them.

“Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is to criticize them.” –Russ Laraway

Years ago I had a team member that I liked very much. She had a good heart and a sharp mind, though her productivity was often lacking. Most tasks took too long or required input from someone else, and she left many unfinished.

For reasons difficult to justify, I couldn’t find it in me to correct her. I gave her performance evaluations that were good overall, with minor or vague notes about improving her productivity.

By not clearly addressing her issues—by being too nice—I allowed her to continue under-performing while believing she was doing a pretty good job. When the doctor eventually had to step in and let her go, she was shocked to find that we hadn’t been happy with her performance.

I had done her and the practice a great disservice by letting feelings or friendship get in the way of my role as a manager. A lack of criticism makes it hard for people to grow and improve, which can be devastating to those you are attempting to be nice to.

5 Tips for Providing Criticism

If you fall into the trap of being too nice, you don’t fix it by simply being mean. Criticism can be hard, but it’s all about the delivery.

Criticism Should Be Constructive

Constructive criticism means that it is specific. Your criticism should leave a person knowing exactly what to do to improve. You can give constructive criticism in a nice way. But if you normally  tend to be too nice, aim to be more bold.

Criticism Should Be Given in Person

A lot of communication happens non-verbally. It might be intimidating for a too-nice dentist to have a tough conversation with a team member, but don’t chicken out and do it over the phone or in an email. This significantly increases the chances of your criticism being received poorly. Do it face-to-face!

Criticism Should Be Private

While I generally recommend praising team members in public, criticism should be given in private. There’s no need to add public shaming or embarrassment if the goal is to provide constructive criticism.

Criticism Should Be Prompt

Difficult conversations become even more difficult if you put them off. The longer you wait, the more context is lost. Details are forgotten and mistakes become habits  as time goes on, so give your feedback promptly.

Criticism Should Be Balanced with Praise

Your team member probably performs most of their duties well, so don’t just focus on negative feedback. Provide frequent praise that is both public and specific, and when it comes time for some constructive criticism, it will be easier for them to hear.

Just Say It

I have a very polite family that would never think of providing criticism to whomever cooked di that evening. However, I am close friends with a couple that regularly does so. The first few times I heard the criticism, I was shocked! However, it was delivered matter-of-factly, and neither of them batted an eye. They have created a culture where both praise and criticism are welcome. This family taught me something about what open and honest communication looks like. Criticism that is meant to inform and improve can, in fact, be kind.

Is your dental practice an environment where positive encouragement can include constructive criticism, or does it suffer because you are “too nice”?

-Sunrise Dental Solutions

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