How to give constructive feedback to employees?

How to give constructive feedback to employees?

Have you ever sought directions while driving? What’s better? 

  • Go straight and take the second left. 
  • It’s ahead somewhere toward the left.
If you are pointing toward the first statement, you already know a thing or two about constructive feedback. Giving feedback as a manager is like showing direction to your team members who want to move ahead. They get stuck on the way because the turns are tricky and the road is bumpy; that’s where you jump in as a manager and help them find the way – through constructive feedback. 

In this blog post, we will examine the core ingredients and process of delivering constructive feedback. So, let’s get started.

Constructive feedback is delivered to aid improvement. It focuses on recognizing the strengths, underlining the weaknesses, and providing guidance. It refers to a kind of feedback that has been designed to enhance the effectiveness of someone’s work and is a form of communication where specific aims are implied.

Constructive feedback facilitates rather than impedes a person’s or group’s development. It is given in a way that encourages people to improve their own work rather than just to receive correct or helpful feedback.

What are the critical ingredients of constructive feedback? 

Constructive feedback is made of five core features. 

  • Clarity: The manager should highlight the problems and suggest clear solutions. Clear communication aligns with the principles of effective communication: clarity, coherence, confidence, concreteness, correctness, conciseness, and courtesy. Following these principles ensures that your team members can easily understand and follow through.
  • Autonomy to solutions: The second critical feature of constructive feedback is autonomy to solutions. Feedback refers to nudges and guidance toward objectives. If you actively push someone and take account at every step, it is called micromanagement. Thus, good constructive feedback allows the person to choose how and when to act on it, if they want to act at all. 
  • Behavior-focused: Good constructive feedback does not focus on the person or their personality traits. Instead, it focuses attention on the work and tasks that they are charged to do. It steers clear of judgments and remarks outside the task-related area. 
  • Positive and respectful: Maintaining positivity and respect are very important in ensuring that your feedback is acted upon. Feedback delivered in a condescending manner hurts emotions and further creates a divide between the team and the manager. Conversely, being positive and respecting the context and limitations allows both parties to work together toward their objectives.
  • Fact-based: Good feedback has facts backing it up. Make sure to add specific examples or instances while sharing feedback, as this adds clarity. Similarly, examples of objectives and behaviors can help identify the proper improvement area. 
These five features make up constructive feedback. Let’s see them in action in the illustration below: 

Let’s take a look at some examples of constructive feedback in the workplace for better understanding:

Constructive Feedback for Improving Task Performance

“I noticed that in the last team meeting, your presentation lacked specific data points. To improve, try incorporating more statistics and examples to make your points clearer and more persuasive.”

Constructive Feedback on Time Management

“I’ve observed that you sometimes struggle to meet deadlines. To enhance your efficiency, consider breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and setting interim deadlines for yourself.”

Constructive Feedback on Communication Skills

“Your emails could be more concise and professional. Consider rephrasing sentences to be clearer and proofreading for any grammatical errors before sending them out.”

Constructive Feedback for Team Collaboration

“During group projects, it’s important to actively listen to your colleagues’ ideas and contribute constructively. I’ve noticed that you tend to dominate discussions. Try to encourage participation from others and integrate their perspectives into our work.”

Constructive Feedback for Problem-solving Skills

“In resolving client issues, I’ve noticed you sometimes rush to solutions without fully understanding the problem. Take some time to analyze the situation thoroughly before proposing remedies, and consider consulting with team members for diverse insights.”

Constructive Feedback for Employee’s Professional Development

“To further develop your skills, I suggest attending workshops or online courses related to project management. This would help you gain new perspectives and techniques that could benefit our team’s productivity.”

Constructive Feedback on Leadership Skills

“As a team leader, it’s crucial to foster a positive work environment. I’ve noticed some tension within the team lately. Try to address conflicts promptly and encourage open communication among team members to maintain a cohesive and supportive atmosphere.”

You can find more examples of constructive feedback at work here:

Here are the five basic ideas you should remember while delivering constructive feedback. Take a look at the examples provided below to understand each of the areas better.

Keep feedback for your team timely 

Effective constructive feedback is delivered on time, like the birthday cake delivered right at midnight, that gives the correct amount of delight and joy. Constructive feedback given in real-time can help your team members correct harmful patterns before they develop into bigger issues. Moreover, you can help align their development and growth plans with those of your team – keeping everything in sync. Let’s look at this with an example: 

During the team presentation earlier, I noticed that your slides lacked clarity in explaining the project’s timeline. Providing a clear timeline is crucial for our stakeholders to understand the project’s progress. Moving forward, could you revise the slides to include specific dates and milestones? This will ensure our message is conveyed effectively and help us maintain credibility with our stakeholders.”

This feedback explains the issue (lack of clarity) precisely right after it happened (a presentation earlier in the day). As a result, the incident is fresh in both minds, and the team members can quickly note suggestions to apply in the next one. 

“After reviewing the project presentation from last month, I realized that your slides lacked clarity in explaining the project timeline. It’s important to provide clear timelines for stakeholders to understand the progress. In the future, please make sure to include specific dates and milestones in your slides.”

When feedback is delivered a month later, many more presentations are passed! The same error gets repeated until corrected later, which would be harder to track as the issue is now on the back burner. Potentially, the team member would just be annoyed at you digging graves of a matter they no longer remember.

Don’t focus on negatives alone

Mixing up feedback and criticism is easy. But worry not; here’s a simple differentiation: 

  • criticism: points out the bad parts alone 
  • constructive feedback: recognizes the good, highlights the bad, and pushes toward the better
While delivering constructive feedback, ensure that you are balancing both sides. Managers often falter and become too optimistic or pessimistic, resulting in employee losses. On the other hand, if your feedback is overtly hostile, it will discourage the employee instead of motivating them to act toward improvement. 

Here’s what balance looks like 

“Well done on completing the project ahead of schedule; your dedication and hard work are evident. However, I noticed a few instances where communication could have been improved within the team, leading to some misunderstandings. Moving forward, let’s continue to prioritize clear communication to ensure smooth collaboration and success on future projects.”

Here, the manager starts by offering praise and quickly deviates into a weakness, which they point out specifically. Ultimately, they reinforce the positive message and provide suggestions for proceeding. This is known as the feedback sandwich method.

“You failed to meet the project deadline, causing significant delays. Your lack of organization and commitment is unacceptable. If this continues, it will reflect poorly on the entire team and could jeopardize our success. You need to step up your game immediately.”

Conversely, in this example, the manager sets a negative tone throughout, making the team members defensive or emotionally charged. Moreover, they are likely to be disappointed as the positive aspects of performance are not highlighted at all, and they have no ideas on how to change things.

Use examples and evidence

Using examples and evidence to support your recommendations and suggestions is the first step toward ensuring your feedback is fact-based. It also helps ensure that feedback is rooted in real reasons instead of being powered by prejudice or biases against a few team members. Moreover, using specific instances helps the employee understand your concern in detail and act accordingly. Here’s how this goes:

“I noticed during yesterday’s client meeting that you effectively addressed all of the client’s concerns and provided detailed explanations for each issue raised. Your thoroughness and knowledge of the project were impressive and contributed significantly to building client confidence in our team’s capabilities.”

After receiving this feedback, your team members will know what they did right and should continue doing. Leaving people puzzled with feedback is pretty easy, too! Here’s how you should not do it:

“I think you did a great job in the client meeting yesterday.”

Everything’s positive, but they will never find out exactly what made it great. We often use feedback to point out the negatives, but feedback is also a tool to reinforce the positives. The good things need examples, too! Additionally, highlighting examples of good behavior during team feedback sessions boosts your employees’ esteem and sets standards for others to follow.

Pay attention to the receiver 

Feedback sessions can also be emotionally charged rooms. At times, your team member’s response to receiving negative feedback can be defensive, or they might try to shift the blame onto someone else altogether. Otherwise, some people go passive during feedback sessions. The key to winning here lies in emotional intelligence and awareness. 

  • Understand the context: If the team is overloaded and your feedback is about meeting deadlines, there’s a title that they can use. Ensure you understand their perspective and the context in which they operate before sharing feedback. It helps you assess their performance better. 
  • Keep the tone right: Your tone and body language matter greatly during a feedback session. The secret to making constructive feedback right lies in nailing this critical element during meetings. Be open-minded and ready to listen actively while being an assertive communicator who can clearly set expectations.
  • Provide privacy and safety in critical moments: Ensure that feedback discussions are private and limited to the concerned team members. Psychological safety during such moments goes a long way in building team cohesion and trust.

Focus on guiding your team

Constructive feedback is not just about passing judgment. It focuses on aiding growth, and a manager can do that best by guiding others in the right direction. When delivering feedback, remember to add tips or suggestions that your team members can follow. Be ready to follow up on feedback meetings with further questions. Moreover, be open to questions during the feedback sessions themselves; it assures your team more clarity and establishes that you care about their growth. After all, their growth is the team’s growth.

“You seemed unsure during the team meeting.”

The feedback that is devoid of guidance is like lost potential. It’s merely an observation that does not suggest the exact issue and why it needs to be resolved, let alone how to resolve it. A manager can make their feedback much more effective by focusing on actionable advice for the team, such as –

“I noticed that in the team meeting, you had some difficulty articulating your ideas clearly. To improve, I suggest practicing summarizing your points beforehand and focusing on speaking slowly and confidently. Additionally, consider using visual aids or examples to illustrate your ideas, which can help make your communication more effective. Let me know if you need any support or resources to work on this.”

This feedback helps the team look at the issue (not articulating ideas clearly.) Then, it gives suggestions that can be applied. Lastly, it offers further support, reinforcing the team member’s choice of acting on the feedback in a manner that suits them. 

Still confused about what’s good feedback and what’s not? Read more here: Ineffective feedback: Are You Unable To Give Constructive Feedback?

Unironically, it starts with getting some constructive feedback. Providing feedback is an essential skill for managers and leaders. But no one hands us the ultimate feedback guide when we climb the ladder. A lot is hit and trial, and it remains so. We can speed up progress with some tips on constructive feedback for managers. 

  • Keep learning from mistakes: We are going to make some mistakes. The critical point is that you should remain open to learning and improving from those incidents. Moreover, you can make some of the mistakes yourself. If you ever had a manager whose feedback meetings you hated, think about why.  Meanwhile, keep practicing with constructive feedback exercises with your team.
  • Seek feedback from your team: You can add a quick question to the meeting to get their thoughts on this issue. Your team members can help define what sort of help they need, and then you can fine-tune your approach to constructive feedback. 
  • Assess your skills regularly: Self-assessments can be super helpful in building skills over time. Risely can help you assess your constructive feedback skills for free here. Moreover, you can seek reviews on your skills from your team, too. 
Constructive feedback, which focuses on strengths, weaknesses, and guidance, is essential for the growth and development of your team. Its critical ingredients—clarity, autonomy to solutions, behavior-focused, positive and respectful, and fact-based—ensure effective communication and improvement. Continuous learning and seeking feedback help you refine constructive feedback skills, fostering a culture of growth and development within teams.

Ace performance reviews with strong feedback skills.

Master the art of constructive feedback by reviewing your skills with a free assessment now.

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