Regardless of your role, level, or industry, at some point in your career, you’ll most likely need to know how to give constructive feedback in the workplace. While this is especially true if you manage others, you might also be called on to give this feedback to peers or team members when working on projects with multiple contributors to ensure that the group’s output is ultimately successful. However, giving constructive criticism can be easier said than done – it’s something that many people find challenging, and can be tricky to do well.
When individuals have a clear understanding of what is required of them, and if we allow them to realize what they are doing correctly and pinpoint areas that give them the opportunity to improve their performance, they will be become more involved and productive in their work. Such is the role of a leader, at any level. For them to know this, we must provide effective feedback on a regular basis. We need to develop a workplace culture whereby feedback is not only expected but well sort after.
Purpose of Constructive Feedback
The purpose of constructive feedback is to give feedback to an individual in a way that will lead to improvements or corrections. This is important, as it enhances personal and professional growth in individuals.
For example, constructive feedback can:
- Improve employee morale
- Reduce confusion regarding expectations and current performance
- Provide a new perspective and give valuable insight to the person receiving feedback
- Positively impact an individual’s behavior
How Should We Give Constructive Feedback to Our Colleagues?
To have an effective feedback, the provider must not only have good communication skills and to carefully follow a process but must have a variety of techniques and skills by which to present the feedback on performance as and when applicable. A huge part of this feedback giving skill is the ability to give people highly concrete and specific examples to facilitate them to understand what they may do to improve in the future.
Giving any kind of feedback, and especially where it is negative or critical in some way, is a delicate task at the best of times—which is why we so often fret and avoid doing it. Managed poorly, a few remarks that are meant to be helpful can easily become destructive. Often, we are hesitant to give feedback or, as some might say, ‘constructive criticism’. Every so often it is because we are worried about hurting the other person’s feelings. But even if we don’t deliver our feedback in specific words, our behavior tends to give the game away—a disapproving look or avoiding contact for example. The hurdle then is that the other person knows you disapprove but does not know why or what to do about it. So rather than implying or expecting the other person to pick up cues, it is usually much better to be clear and express your feedback in full but also in the most helpful way possible.
Can Feedback Help in Work Improvement?
Research suggests that engaged employees are inclined to produce more when they believe their efforts are being recognized and are clear on the contributions their efforts are making. Conversely, research strongly supports the view that those who are not feeling appreciated, are not clear on what direction the business is heading in and how they are impacting the business. This precedes to them becoming disengaged and much less likely to provide any discretionary effort.
Many of us would have received feedback before – the good, the bad and the ‘I don’t know what they mean’. Thinking about how we felt when receiving feedback is a good place to start in your own feedback training journey. Being able to receive feedback can be just as daunting as giving feedback for most of us. Be prepared for how to effectively receive feedback is vital in your development, personal or career. Participating in feedback surveys is a great way to receive feedback from your superiors, peers and direct reports. A well organised feedback survey is a very comprehensive process and provides you with a lot of valuable information. What you do with the information from the report is pivotal in your leadership development. You need to work on it. Else, the information will remain just that, information.
So, here’s how you can give employees constructive feedback in a positive way.
- Build a company culture where constructive feedback is accepted. The foundation is a great place to start. Employees who are secure in their positions and understand their goals, as well as those of the company, will be more receptive, not demotivated, by constructive feedback. Building a culture where it’s OK to make mistakes is equally important. Good employees should constantly be learning, and few can grow without making a few mistakes. Also, let employees know you regularly provide feedback to all employees, not just them.
- Understand what constructive feedback is. It’s not blame-focused, but useful, direct and about the action, not the person.
- Don’t sit on it. Give your employees constructive feedback in real-time. Make specific notes about what you need to discuss and give the feedback regularly. One-on-ones are a perfect time for this. Saving constructive feedback for performance reviews isn’t as effective.
- Avoid the “compliment sandwich.” Managers tend to think slipping constructive feedback in between the positive helps the medicine go down easier, but skip it. Be straightforward with your feedback. Positive feedback is extremely important as well, but save it for later in the discussion or for another conversation.
- Be direct and concise. Present the facts of your feedback with concrete examples. For example, instead of saying to an employee, “You don’t run meetings effectively,” give him or her a concrete example, such as “The action items from the meetings are unclear, and people don’t understand how to move forward.” Also, avoid using words like “but” and “however.” They reflect your uncomfortable with giving the feedback. Oh, and they’re usually preceded by some form of praise (see compliment sandwich).
- Provide feedback with a path to improvement. Most employees seek constructive feedback to improving their job performance and growing professionally. Without managerial coaching, guidance and goals, the feedback alone can be frustrating for employees. For instance, tell your employee, “End each meeting with a list of action items and owners, so everyone is clear on the go-forward plan. This way everyone understands next steps, and it will help you develop your leadership skills.”
- Face-to-face interaction is best — and preferably in private. Don’t send your constructive feedback in an email or toss it off publicly after — or even worse, in the middle — of a meeting
Regardless of your role, level, or industry, at some point in your career, you’ll most likely need to know how to give constructive feedback in the workplace. While this is especially true if you manage others, you might also be called on to give this feedback to peers or team members when working on projects with multiple contributors to ensure that the group’s output is ultimately successful. However, it can be easier said than done. Learn how you can give valuable and effective feedback to your peers/colleagues now!