How to Give Constructive Feedback
- Avoid Venting
- Involve the Individual
- The Sandwich Technique
- Focus on Improvement
- Explain the Feedback
- There’s a Time and a Place for Everything
Knowing some guidelines for providing constructive feedback can help make the process more effective. Constructive feedback provides employees with comments or suggestions about their work. The goal is a positive outcome which could include:
- improved work behaviors
- new perspectives
- faster and more efficient processes
Constructive feedback can come as both praise and criticism.
Praise is positive feedback meant to highlight what an employee is doing right. Good constructive feedback uses specific examples rather than a blanket statement. Providing specific examples increases the chances that an employee will continue doing well in that area.
Most people do not enjoy receiving criticism about their work or performance, but delivering that criticism can be almost as difficult. However, there are techniques that can make giving and getting feedback easier.
Related resource: Top 10 Bachelor’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
1. Avoid Venting
It is important to make feedback focused and specific. Feedback should also generally be delivered in the moment. If it is saved up and delivered in a big chunk, the person can feel overwhelmed. However, delivering feedback in the moment should not turn into micromanaging. Feedback should only be delivered as necessary. The person may have a different approach to completing a task or a project that is equally effective, and this should be recognized by the person who is giving the feedback.
2. Involve the Individual
Many of the leaders surveyed by Forbes on providing constructive feedback made suggestions. To give constructive feedback effectively, try involving the person receiving the feedback in the process instead of simply making them a passive listener. For example, one suggestion was to ask permission to give feedback first. This gives the person who is receiving the feedback a sense of having some autonomy. Asking the person’s opinion about how the work or performance can be improved can also help. People can also be asked if there are specific things they want to work on getting better at.
3. The Sandwich Technique
Some people may already be familiar with what is sometimes called the “sandwich” approach to giving constructive feedback. This involves saying something positive followed by the negative feedback and ending with the positive again. However, it is important to ensure that this approach does not lead to the person only focusing on the compliments. Discussing ways to improve in the needed area may help ensure that the critical part of the feedback does not get ignored.
4. Focus on Improvement
This focus on improvement is a valuable element of providing tactful constructive feedback. Depending on the context of the feedback, it may be helpful to set specific goals that will indicate improvement. For example, if the person is working on public speaking skills and has said “uh” 15 times in a five-minute speech, the goal might be to only say it once or twice if it all in the next five-minute speech. This approach reduces the possibility that feedback is perceived as a personal attack.
This focus on improvement also shows confidence in the person and their ability to do better. It means the feedback is delivered in a positive fashion that is focused on doing something well instead of a more punitive atmosphere that makes people feel as though they have simply made too many mistakes. Talking about improvement highlights the fact that constructive feedback is part of the learning process.
5. Explain the Feedback
One error people often make in giving constructive feedback is failing to explain the rationale behind it. This can make feedback seem arbitrary. The person may not know why it matters whether they say “uh” many times in a presentation. Explaining the feedback can also give people the tools to make improvements on their own instead of simply parroting what they have heard.
6. There’s a Time and a Place for Everything
When giving feedback, it is important to consider where and when it’s appropriate. Giving praise to an employee in front of other team members can boost employee morale and provide positive recognition. Pointing out negative behaviors in a group setting can be embarrassing and break down trust. Receiving constructive feedback in a group setting can be acceptable for teams with the same job responsibilities.
Don’t wait to have a constructive conversation. An employee shouldn’t have to wait to receive corrective feedback. In order for this feedback to be a supportive communication tool, it needs to be done in a timely manner. This gives employees less of a chance to develop poor work habits and helps set them up for success.
How to Provide Constructive Feedback in the Workplace
There are many different ways to give constructive feedback and make a positive difference in the workplace. We share some constructive feedback examples to give you some ideas for how to deal with common workplace challenges.
1. Attitude in the workplace
Attitude can be tricky. When you have an employee with a genuine positive attitude, reward them with positive feedback that shows you appreciate their attitude with regards to the specific project or task at hand. Emphasize how their positive attitude is valued.
A negative workplace attitude can bring down an entire team. It is important to provide constructive feedback to fix this toxic behavior. You could comment that you noticed they’ve been saying negative things. You should ask if there is something you could do to help. Avoid making generalizations or assigning blame. Your goal is to try and achieve a positive outcome.
Punctuality is important in the workplace. Employees who show up on time consistently should receive positive feedback for doing so. This is behavior you want to encourage and continue.
Employees may run late for a variety of reasons, but when it is deemed excessive, it’s important to correct tardiness. You could start off by commenting that you’ve noticed they’ve been late recently. Explain why it’s important that they are at work on time. The employee is likely to be motivated to change their behavior if they know they are valued and seen. Ask if there is something you can do to help them arrive on time.
Productive employees make a positive impact on an organization whether it’s in terms of profitability or furthering their mission. Positive feedback can be given by letting the employee know you appreciate their effort on xyz and how they are a value to the organization.
If productivity levels have recently dropped, address the recent drop and ask if there is anything the company can do to help. Sometimes it’s an inefficient process or a redundant workflow causing the issue. Giving the employee a say in how their performance could improve builds a positive company culture.
Some people may view receiving feedback as a painful process, but it does not have to be. With these guidelines for providing tactful constructive feedback, people can be taught how to improve without feeling as though they have done something wrong.