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The Key Differences Between Coaching vs Criticizing Your Peers

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coaching vs criticism

Have you ever been asked to review someone’s output but didn’t know how to reply? Whether they have a paper to edit or a speech they will recite, giving feedback is expected in the workplace. Many of us have been asked to examine what our peers have made before they formally submit it.

We may not realize that our feedback can be misinterpreted as complaints. The way we deliver our professional opinions must be precise. It can mean the difference between coaching vs criticism. Both have to provide comments and review someone’s work.

However, there is a big difference in how they work and what they can do to others. The proper technique can make your colleagues better at their job. Conversely, the wrong method will ruin their mood and create grudges you didn’t intend to make. Here’s what you need to know about coaching vs criticism

The Facts About Coaching vs Criticism

What makes criticism and coaching similar? Both have to do with critiquing someone’s behavior or performance at work. They cover your colleague’s projects, organization, and office etiquette. Criticism and coaching analyze how someone handles their job

Now, here’s what makes criticism and coaching different from each other. Criticism is harmful. You’ll often find that those criticizing others will bash their attitude, work ethic, or passion. Even if they have sound reason to complain, the way it comes out is often hostile and offensive.

For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was notorious for cursing those working for him. Famous anecdotes from former members include Bill sending out emails in the middle of the night that started with “This is the stupidest piece of code ever written”. Even though Bill is a genius programmer and knows how to improve codes, that kind of message comes off as rude and shameful. Imagine how bad the receiver must feel once they’ve been yelled at or insulted for their hard work.

Coaching, on the other hand, is meant to be constructive. Popular opinion thinks that coaching should be wholly positive and forgiving. That’s not always the case. You can blunt when you coach someone. However, that doesn’t give you an excuse to berate and insult someone. Coaching means you are candid about the problems or mistakes they made without shaming them for it. Your colleagues ask for feedback because they want to be better. Your job as a coach is to show them what to do right. Whether technical advice or general lifestyle tips, a coach should always strive to help others get better. That means giving them hope that they’ll improve and succeed beyond expectations. 

For example, comedian Amy Poehler once delivered a speech to Harvard graduates in 2011. She stated in her remarks that “You can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

Notice how her words sound. They point out a common flaw, the mentality of doing everything alone without being harsh. They also give reasons why collaboration is effective and how it can improve you as a person. With this coaching method, you can inspire someone to do better and overcome the mistakes they’ve made in life.

Four Proven Consequences of Criticism

Now that you can see the difference of coaching vs criticism, you can be more observant of how we critique our colleagues. Some people might still be on the fence, however. They might have gone through a boss or workplace that often criticized its employees and come out fine. While people can stay resilient and unfazed, that doesn’t mean they should tolerate criticism. Here are four proven consequences of how criticism affects your work.

1. Increased Anxiety

Being yelled at or called a fool is not suitable for anyone mentally. Comments and hostile behavior can make one feel unsafe and on edge. Imagine your boss screamed at you for dropping a cup of coffee. You’ll likely spend the rest of the day wary of wherever he goes. You might even feel nervous when you try to get another cup of coffee. That kind of anxiety can suffocate someone and drive them away from you.

coaching vs criticism anxiety

2. Loss of Motivation and Energy

Criticism can be disheartening to those who worked hard. All that effort is suddenly brushed away in an angry, unforgiving manner. You will feel your mood change if your output is outright rejected or bombarded with nitpicks and complaints. Many of those yelled at tend to lose their motivation to finish work. They might also lose energy and focus. They might be preoccupied with their errors or the hostile comments that they can’t get back to a working mindset.

3. Broken Trust and Credibility

When you’re yelled at by someone you trust, like a colleague or boss, you’re likely to lose confidence in them. People want to avoid negative behavior, and while criticism can be valid, the attitude can make a big difference between understanding and fearing someone. It’s not surprising that some of Bill Gates’ partners and workers decided to leave Microsoft after too many putdowns; they had too much and lost trust in Bill and his style.

4. Less Productivity and Work Satisfaction

The previous three consequences lead to this fourth one: less productivity and work satisfaction. It’s not surprising, but it does need to be addressed. Criticizing and complaining about your colleagues will cause a lot of negative feelings. They will feel less motivated to do their work or show up the next day. For them, the workplace has turned from a productive to a stressful environment. If you continue to criticize how your peers perform, don’t be surprised if their quality of work falls.

Four Proven Benefits of Coaching

We can see why criticism can be dangerous for the office. How can positive feedback improve our game? Here are four proven benefits of coaching your peers at work.

1. Real-Time Feedback

Seeing your coworkers and examining their performance is an excellent way to give real-time feedback. This means you can give constructive comments as they are doing their job. Your coworkers can immediately respond and change tactics with your insight and words. Coaching them can make their work smoother, faster, and more efficient. In addition, you also make them aware that you are willing to help them out whenever they get stuck in a problem they can’t solve.

2. Shared Perspectives

If you know the right way to do your job, you’re the best person to explain how things work. You can show them how you view the issue by providing your perspective on how someone can do their job better. If someone’s editing feels off, you can explain to them why you see it differently. This allows them to understand where you’re coming from and how you would change things. For example, their editing style might come from a formal guideline, while yours can come from a relaxed and organic viewpoint.

It’s also important to accept their reasons for doing something. It’s always good to assume that your colleagues have the best intentions when they work on something. They might have had a sound reason for trying their way if it goes wrong. By learning what they considered suitable, you can explain why their style isn’t as effective or how to improve it.

3. Strengthens Bonds Amongst Colleagues

The golden rule is to do to others what you want them to do for you. This rule is also why coaching others will build trust amongst your colleagues. By providing feedback and teaching them ways to improve their work, your coworkers will learn to trust your judgment and consider you reliable. It also means that when they accept your advice, they are willing to learn more and ask for your help. As the golden rule states, you can expect they’ll gladly help you and give perspective to any obstacles in your path.

coaching vs criticism make friends

For example, many bestselling authors like to discuss their drafts and share ideas. Even if they have different tastes in stories, their feedback can help each other step up their plots and dialogue. 

Sharing knowledge is a great way to test yourself and challenge others to do better.

4. Improved Productivity

A survey from the AMA/Institute for Corporate Productivity revealed that the biggest reason why people wanted coaching was to improve themselves and their productivity. Over 79% of all respondents felt that the best way to improve was to be coached by peers and experts. By helping others through coaching, you can advise them on how to do better and teach them new tricks or skills to make work go smoothly. Together, you can all do much more work and get better results than you could on your own.

Tips for Coaching

From all that we’ve examined, it’s clear that coaching your colleagues at work is much more effective and beneficial. It allows you to spot flaws in their plan and give ways to improve it. However, coaching the right way requires careful planning and attention. Here are some tips that you can use to coach your colleagues properly:

  • Never be spontaneous when you critique. Prepare beforehand by examining your colleague’s outputs and listing the key issues you want to address. Doing so will make the coaching process faster and easier for everyone involved.
  • When reviewing their work, always praise them for what they’ve done and their effort.
  • Focus on the key areas to improve. While you can add finer details to improve, don’t lose sight of the main issue. Fixing that is a bigger priority.
  • Always take time to follow up with your colleagues. Check how they’ve changed their outputs and how these changes look.
  • Accept feedback from the other person. Take the time to hear their reasons why they did things differently. It’s better than assuming that you’re the only one that’s right.
  • Take time to explain your logic. People get lost because they don’t know how you see the issue. Once you open up your perspective, they’ll understand you better.
  • Point out examples in their work to illustrate your point. With evidence, you can help them spot what needs to be changed and how.
  • Make it a habit. It’s good to accept coaching from others in the workplace. Making it a routine can improve everyone’s skills and bonds.
Article Sources
  1. Backman, M. (2018, March 28). 3 Reasons to Never Criticize Your Employees in Public. The Motley Fool. 
  2. Cooks-Campbell, A. (2022, March 17). Peer Coaching for Managers and Teams: Your Go-To Guide. BetterUp. 
  3. Riegel, D. G. (2018, October 12). Stop Complaining About Your Colleagues Behind Their Backs. Harvard Business Review. 
  4. UWA Online. (2019, October 22). 10 Benefits of Peer Coaching in the Workplace. 
  5. Zidle, M. (2017, April 12). Coaching vs Criticism: Do You Know the Difference? BIZCATALYST 360°. 
  6. Zidle, M. (2018, March 10). Coaching vs Criticism: One Works and One Doesn’t! LinkedIn. 

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