How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

Telling someone they’ve done something wrong or could do something better can be awkward. The potential for conflict can be enough to keep some people from addressing critical performance issues that hinder their team and the company's overall growth. But the good news is that there are ways to give constructive feedback effectively. Constructive feedback from superiors helps employees understand where their performance stands. Positive criticism is a swift, effective way to give your employees an instant boost of loyalty, personal growth, and work ethic. When done correctly, honest and critical assessments motivate employees to perform better and get them back on track. By utilizing the framework of civil discourse, you can learn to offer constructive feedback in the workplace effortlessly, without any hurt feelings or awkward silences.

What is Constructive Feedback?

Constructive feedback is a supportive assessment aimed at a level-headed conversation about the areas of weakness and includes suggestions to deal with them. It’s an effective communication tool that:

  • Brings positive behavioral change
  • Offers new perspective through genuine insights
  • Helps conduct solution-driven discussions
  • Ushers in a healthy work culture
  • Addresses the remediation measures for specific concerns
  • Boosts employee morale
  • Removes ambiguity and improves clarity on work expectations

When you welcome fresh faces to your team, it is important to define healthy boundaries between constructive and destructive feedback. Instead of saying, “That’s not how we do things here!” you can rephrase it to “Our work culture supports flexibility, so help me understand your approach.” Destructive feedback can be seen as an attack on the recipient. It focuses on pointing out flaws. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, addresses the issue, promotes understanding of a situation, and focuses on finding improvement.

What are the Key Features of Constructive Feedback?

If you want to give constructive feedback, you must master communicating in a way that doesn’t come across as rude or harsh. Adding a layer of positivity to your words while offering constructive feedback can go a long way. Constructive feedback usually has these three elements:

  • Recognition of a specific course of action
  • Walkthrough of the impact
  • Setting expectations for future responses

Here are some key features of effective Constructive Feedback:

  • Relatable to the recipient

Keep your feedback relatable and concrete to a specific concern. The best approach is to have a measurable metric and offer constructive feedback to ace it. The recipient should be able to relate to your points and strive to bring positive change.

  • Well-timed to create faster improvements

As a leader, I don’t wait for my team to finish a job and then report it to me. As an active team player, I participate in the tasks whenever possible and offer timely suggestions and feedback. This strategy facilitates constructive feedback and corrections while the work is in progress.

  • Descriptive to contextualize the feedback better

Focus on relevant data and explain your feedback thoroughly. Spell out your expectations, the shortcomings of your team, and the areas of improvement for a positive impact.

  • Encouraging the recipient

A mistake is only permanent if it’s never rectified. Show your team that you value mistakes as long as they’re corrected and never repeated. Recognize their efforts in doing a task, even if some of it went south, and encourage them to fix the loopholes.

  • Is solution-oriented and lays out the next steps

Even though you’re pointing out someone’s mistakes, the intent is not to make them feel ashamed but to find a solution. Give actionable feedback that clarifies the way forward instead of looming over past mistakes. Before offering constructive feedback, attempt to understand the team’s approach and intent. Once you communicate your expectations, foster learning, and offer autonomy, your team will feel self-reliant and confident. When they hit a bump in the road, help them shift gears with your feedback.

Praise vs. Criticism

In practice, both praise and criticism are parts of constructive feedback sessions where you can praise the team and offer suggestions, advice, and positive criticism. Let’s distinguish between the two. Praise is when you appreciate your employees on a job done well. You reinforce good behavior and boost their morale by acknowledging and appreciating their efforts. Criticism, on the other hand, is more complex to navigate through. Do not demean or get personal when critiquing someone’s work. Be sincere and contribute to their personal growth with goal-oriented criticism. Both feedback and criticism are important in a feedback session. To ensure mistakes aren’t repeated, praise the positive aspects first. When there are fewer or no positive points, focus on critiquing the bad aspects without demeaning their effort or making them feel insulted or humiliated.

Emotional Intelligence and Constructive Feedback

Empathy is the key to unlocking a team’s unprecedented potential for every entrepreneur. The more understanding you have about situations, the more sophisticated the discourse becomes. Emotional intelligence is like a lens to look through to identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. It keeps the blame game out of the discussion and draws inspiration from how much you know about your team and their value system. Consider how your feedback will make your team feel. Once you excel in modifying your feedback as per every individual’s emotional capacity, you’ll create a motivated team that consistently works towards growth.

Tips For Giving Constructive Feedback Effectively

  • Host one-on-one meetings

Talking in a private space gives a sense of confidentiality and trust that employees appreciate. Constructive feedback is delivered in a one-on-one meeting rather than critiquing someone in front of the whole team. For example: “I’ve noticed you’re having trouble adhering to deadlines. If there’s an issue, you can directly report to me, and I’ll help you out.”

  • Find the right tone

A respectful tone and precise delivery can be pivotal to the impact of your feedback. Steer clear of placing too much blame or coming across harshly. The more positive and open you remain in your tone and demeanor, the more likely the recipient will take your feedback well. For example: “Your creativity with work has saved the company a lot of time and money. However, there are some errors that I’d like to go through before you start the next project.”

  • State the reason behind a feedback session

Without skirting around the issue, mention what you’re talking about and why it is crucial to address the concern. If there are any specific incidents, quote them and allow the recipient to respond or explain their side of the story. Avoid treading around a blame game. Always encourage dialogue. For example: “You’ve been a valuable addition to our team for several months. But lately, I’ve noticed that you’re losing your composure frequently. Is there anything I can do to support you and cool off the air?”

  • Find a solution together

Once the recipient has presented their points, start brainstorming solutions. Offer advice on how to improve the situation and discuss other ways to deal with similar conditions in the future. For example: “I know it seems difficult to handle this now, but let’s see what our possibilities are.”

  • Recap your discussion

Summarize the whole discussion to avoid any misunderstandings. You also ensure that the person has effectively accepted your constructive feedback by recapping. End positively by appreciating their efforts in listening to your constructive feedback. For example: “I know it’s difficult to address your mistakes, but I’m glad you sat through this discussion. I hope my feedback will help you grow and tackle situations better next time.”

Summing Up

You don’t have to wait for a problem to arise when you can practice civil discourse with your team and learn to give and take constructive feedback right now. Offering empathic critique, setting communication standards, taking an active approach, and creating a company culture focused on solutions will help you build a team open to receiving all of your feedback — the good and the bad.

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Milan Kordestani

Milan Kordestani

Founder of 3 impact-first companies actively driving organizations to produce socially positive externalities through a mindset of social architecture.