Why I think “constructive criticism” is a term invented by some smart-ass management out there.

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in views | No Comments


Ok, a post laced with skepticism (and not directly related to the field of design/creativity, but to work and life in general).

Haven’t we often heard of the term “constructive criticism”? Ever wondered where it came from? Well, I have a conspiracy theory for that!

There are often times, as fallible and imperfect human beings who tend to notice more gross injustices than the good things in life, we complain or criticise.

And it’s equally often that our criticisms are met with responses like “That’s not CONSTRUCTIVE at all. If you want to criticise, offer an alternative solution!”

Well, having experienced both the roles of an employee and employer, I’m gonna throw my 2-cents worth of thoughts into the hat: I simply (and cynically) believe that the term “constructive criticism” was invented by some smart-ass person in some sort of management position out there.

Why? Well, for 1 simple reason: to keep employees’ mouth shut. Especially from complaining or criticising. By tapping on the employees’ lack of depth of knowledge and/or management knowhow, and using guilt to keep them quiet. Hence, “constructive criticism” was invented as a term/concept purely to keep disgruntled employees at bay.

I mean, why can’t we criticise when we see (or feel) something amiss? Why do we have to offer an “alternative solution” whenever we point out certain inadequacies or inefficiencies? What if we can’t offer any solution, but see a problem? Does it mean we all have to keep mum about it? It’s one thing to be able to spot a problem and highlight it. It’s another to be able to solve it.

Management tends to ask for “alternative” solutions when we point out an issue or problem, in the guise of asking employees to be “constructive” and not be too “destructive” in any discussion. This instills a sense of guilt in any employees’ mind, because not having any alternative solution often implies that the said employee is just a big mouth critic devoid of any knowledge to solve the original complain/problem. So if you have no better suggestion, please keep quiet and hold that criticism till you have one. Ah yes, that’s a team player. That’s the constructive way to do this. Bravo.

The often overlooked fact is: isn’t management/boss/government/anyone above you in hierarchy in their respective high positions above you there because they are BETTER than you? Aren’t they be the ones that is appointed to SOLVE the problems we highlight/criticise about? If we’re as good as them in problem solving, then why would we be still in this position?

When someone criticise, it is because he or she feels something is wrong and needs to be corrected. The critic knows the problem. But may not jolly well have the answer to solve it.

It is one thing to bring out what you feel is wrong, and another to try and propose something to solve it.

Most of us mere mortals can’t solve a problem that we need management’s help to crack (and make better). That’s precisely why we need the management, who are supposed to be smarter, better and more experienced to solving big problems. If we can identify a problem and criticise the existence of it, while offering alternative ways to solve the problem, we wouldn’t ever need to bring it out in the first place, do we?

So, next time your boss/management/senior/dad tells you to be constructive in your criticism, and asks for “alternative solutions” to go with your criticism, just tell them (kindly): boss, it’s your job to solve the problems I just highlighted, not mine.

And as long as you’re genuinely sincere about highlighting a problem, don’t ever feel guilty about voicing it out and criticising what you see is not right or unjust.

And don’t let anyone (even your boss) make you feel bad about it either.

(ps: …and now I await any constructive criticism, viewpoints or comments.)

Leave a Reply