6 Strategies for Giving Constructive Feedback

Posted by Dario Priolo on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 @ 07:54 AM

Edited by Christina Krenek

Feedback. We’ve all given it, received it, and possibly even loathed it. But constructive feedback is essential for everyone in the workplace, especially as a manager or leader. It lets people know where they are and where to go next in terms of expectations and goals - yours, their own, and the organizations.

The main objective in giving constructive feedback is to provide guidance by supplying information that either supports effective behavior or guides someone back on track toward successful performance. In doing this, it is absolutely crucial to know when and how to give the most effective feedback you can.

Some situations that require giving constructive feedback include:

  • Ongoing performance discussions.
  • Providing specific performance pointers.
  • Following up on coaching discussions.
  • Giving corrective guidance.
  • Letting someone know the consequences of their behavior.

Some clues that constructive feedback is needed are when:

  • Someone asks for your opinion about how they are doing.
  • Unresolved problems persist.
  • Errors occur again and again.
  • An employee's performance doesn't meet expectations.
  • A peer's work habits disturb you.

To be an effective manager or supervisor, you need to make feedback as helpful as possible. The trick is learning how to give it constructively so that employees can understand, respect and use it. Remember, constructive feedback is used to build things up, not break things down! Here are six things to keep in mind when giving constructive feedback:  

1. If you can't think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don't give it at all. Good feedback should always have a target and aim for improvement.

2. Focus on description rather than judgment. Describing behavior is a way of reporting what has occurred, while judging behavior is an evaluation of what has occurred in terms of "right and wrong" or "good and bad." Constructive feedback should not be judgmental.

For example: The simple statement, "Your communication skills are good," isn’t very helpful. Instead, you want to be specific by saying something like, "You demonstrate a high degree of confidence when you answer customer questions about registration procedures.”  

3. Focus on observation rather than inference. Observations refer to what you can see or hear about an individual's behavior, while inferences refer to the assumptions and interpretations you make from what you see or hear. Be an observer. Focus on what the person did and your reaction.

For example: When an employee is constantly missing deadlines, approach them with the observation, like “You haven’t been meeting your deadlines for the past two weeks, which is putting a strain on the rest of the team.” Stay with the facts.

4. Focus on behavior rather than the person. Refer to what an individual does rather than what you imagine they are. To focus on behavior, use adverbs, which describe action, rather than adjectives, which describe qualities.

For example: "You talked considerably during the staff meeting, which prevented me from getting to some of the main points," rather than "You talk too much." See the difference?

5. Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback. If you consistently give only positive or only negative feedback, people may begin to distrust it and not listen.

6. Be aware of feedback overload. Select two or three important points you want to make and offer feedback about those points. If you overload an individual with more than that, they may become confused about what exactly needs to be improved or changed.

Giving feedback constructively benefits everyone! There should always be consistent communication between managers and employees, which both builds relationships and allows for valuable coaching and development. The employee, manager, supervisor, or peer receives the information they need to be successful while the organization gains and improves productivity. It’s a win-win.


Topics: Leadership, Management