constructive feedback

7 Secrets to Mastering Constructive Feedback for Managers

If you are a manager, your job is to do so much more than juggling work schedules, managing staff, and attending meetings. At the top of your work is to have your managers and employees feel valued and cared for, especially morale. Managers have a double-edged sword that they use to guide their team members; to gain the best performance and the highest levels of engagement, they must learn how to give constructive feedback. Here are seven steps to successfully giving constructive feedback regularly. But before that let’s understand what exactly is constructive feedback.

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is the performance review that is designed to help someone improve their work. 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 the development of a person or group. It is also feedback that is given in a way that encourages people to improve their own work, rather than just to receive feedback that is correct or helpful. When feedback is delivered in a constructive way, it can help people learn and grow, and can lead to improvements in their performance.

Let’s check out an example

Imagine you are a manager overseeing a project, and one of your team members, Sarah, has been consistently missing project deadlines.

Non-Constructive Feedback:
You call Sarah into your office and say, “Sarah, you’ve been missing deadlines again. This is unacceptable and makes you look unreliable. You need to get your act together and stop slacking off.”

Constructive Feedback:
You invite Sarah for a one-on-one meeting and say, “Sarah, I’ve noticed that you’ve been having some challenges meeting project deadlines lately. I understand that there can be various reasons for this. Can you share with me what might be causing these delays?”

The key differences between the two examples are:

  • Tone: Constructive feedback maintains a respectful and empathetic tone, while non-constructive feedback can be critical and accusatory.
  • Specificity: Constructive feedback seeks to understand the root causes and offers concrete solutions, whereas non-constructive feedback simply criticizes without providing guidance.
  • Collaboration: Constructive feedback encourages teamwork and problem-solving, involving the employee in finding solutions, while non-constructive feedback may leave the employee feeling isolated and demoralized.
Critical to getting this feedback right is recognizing that it’s just as important to give praise and recognition when constructive criticism has led someone on a more productive path, teaching them something they did better or reminding them of how others feel about their contribution.

But I give critical feedback every year at appraisal time

By contrast, when feedback is delivered in an unduly harsh way, it can set people off on a negative spiral. But constructive criticism that’s delivered with understanding and sensitivity doesn’t always happen fast enough to help someone already experiencing difficulties. Criticism heard at the time of performance review or appraisal conveys information about how well others have performed relative to their goals, without blaming the recipients for some personal failing or feeling sorry for them because they resulted in poor performance. Hence, that doesn’t help them become a better version of themselves.

The goal of giving constructive feedback is to help the person receiving it become better at their job. It can help them to identify areas where they need to make changes. Also, constructive feedback has an inherent loop built into it. It is not a one-off discussion that the manager can have with their team members. It is a detailed process that takes an entire development plan for them and the manager guides them through it.

What is the importance of constructive feedback?

Giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important skills that a manager can possess. It’s also one of the most difficult tasks to do as a manager. Giving constructive feedback can be difficult for managers, but it’s worth the effort. Employees who receive constructive feedback tend to be more productive and satisfied with their jobs. They can handle excess workload effectively and do achieve constant betterment in their performance.

Constructive feedback is vital to the success of any organization. It is a way for managers to provide employees with information that will help them improve their performance. In addition, constructive feedback can help employees feel valued and appreciated, hence creating impact on training initiatives and retention. When given constructively, feedback can help employees learn and grow.

Managers who give effective feedback create a positive and productive work environment. Employees feel appreciated when they are given feedback that helps them improve their work. It allows managers to show their genuine care for the employees. Further, giving feedback helps in developing Guidance Ability within managers which is important to be an effective manager. In addition, giving and receiving constructive feedback can help managers and employees develop better working relationships.

Constructive feedback allows employees to improve their work, rather than making them feel defensive or insulted when they receive criticism. Constructive feedback culture in a team can help ensure that employees feel good and valued, which can ultimately benefit the entire team.

constructive feedback

7 Easy Steps to Master the Art of Giving Constructive Feedback

Understand the impact of the feedback you are about to give

The ability to give and receive feedback is an important skill for managers. Why? Managers are responsible for the team’s performance and output. If you don’t give feedback the team doesn’t improve. Hence, your team’s performance and output don’t improve.

Unfortunately, many managers struggle with it, often because they do not understand the impact their feedback can have. To give constructive feedback effectively, the first step is to understand the impact our feedback can generate.

This understanding will provide managers the information about if their feedback is creating a chance of improvement or not. Once they understand this, they can use the information to give feedback that is more likely to be heard and understood. Thus improving the employees’ behavior or performance. This understanding will also cut down the chances of any miscommunication.

Give relevant and timely feedback

The most effective type of feedback for the team members is timely and relevant. The feedback that is given too soon or when it is not relevant anymore will be ignored or even construed as hostile. It could lead to resentment on the part of the employee. Managers should give feedback on time and it should be directed towards improving performance rather than addressing personal issues. Hence, managers should neither give feedback too early, nor they should wait too long to give them. They should give more real-time feedback whenever required.

Pay attention to the recipient

It is important as a manager to take into account how your feedback might affect the employee before giving it. For example, if you are providing constructive criticism, make sure that your comments are specific and accurate. If you are giving feedback about an incident, be aware of the emotions experienced by both parties involved in the situation. This can be done by watching out for the body language and behaviors of the employees when they receive feedback and by showing empathy.

There can be times when the employees may get defensive when receiving feedback from you. This can hinder their ability to improve and can be disruptive to the workplace. There are a few things you can still do to help them understand your feedback and improve their work.

First, try to understand why they are defensive. It could be that they feel like they are being attacked. They may also not agree with what you are saying. Once you understand why they are defensive, you can work on addressing that issue while giving feedback. Later, ask questions that will help you understand their point of view and see what areas they need assistance with. By doing this, the decision can be made at a more productive level.

Balance both positive feedback and negative feedback

When giving feedback, most managers end up giving too much negative feedback. This is counterproductive, as it discourages the employees who are receiving feedback from continuing their efforts. It is also demoralizing. A better way to give an employee feedback is to balance both positives and negatives in your feedback.

For example: Instead of saying ” The entire work you submitted yesterday was not good and you need to change it” Try saying “Some of the parts of the work you submitted yesterday were good to go. But I believe some areas need improvement.” This will help the person receiving the feedback to feel that they are doing something right, while also helping them to identify areas for improvement.

Here’s an interesting way to do this: What Is A Feedback Sandwich? Pros And Cons Of Feedback Sandwich

Be specific by sharing data points

When giving feedback to an employee, it is important for managers to be specific. This means sharing data points rather than just general observations. For example, rather than saying “you’re always late,” try “in the past three weeks, you’ve been late twice.” This will help the employee understand what they need to work on. Their efforts to work on the given feedback will be much more specific and effective. This will also help managers to give specified performance reviews to individuals and their comparison to the rest of the team.

Be genuine and honest in your feedback

When trying to give constructive feedback, it’s important for managers to be genuine and honest. You don’t need to sugarcoat the feedback or make it sound like you are giving a compliment. Call a spade, a spade, and only give feedback where it is necessary. For example, if you are disappointed or satisfied with an employee’s performance, you should make it crystal clear in your feedback.

Further, you need to be clear and concise and focus on the specific behavior that you want to change. Make sure that you give employees time to digest the feedback. They may not be able to change their behavior immediately, so it’s important to provide some slack.

Find more tips: How Should Constructive Feedback Be Given? Do’s And Dont’s For Managers

Avoid personal attacks

Personal attacks (i.e., criticizing someone’s character without providing constructive criticism) are never appropriate forms of feedback. Instead, try to provide objective information that will help the individual understand what needs to be done differently. Personal attacks on employees can cause them to become defensive and resist feedback. Improvement will then become much more difficult. Feeling personally attacked can also lead the employee towards burnout. Remember that ineffective feedback does more harm than good!

Constructive feedback activities can be a great start to this, check out some here: 10+ Impactful Constructive Feedback Exercises for Managers

The clever art of receiving constructive feedback: How to receive feedback effectively?

All these steps make it extremely easy for managers to master the art of giving constructive feedback. However, as a manager, it is not only important to give constructive feedback, but it is also important to receive feedback effectively. This feedback should cover an employee’s review of both the manager’s performance and the team.

With this fast-growing and continuously evolving business world, Managers have options to adopt multiple ways to collect feedback. They can do it in person or anonymously using a tool. Anonymous feedback is said to be more insightful as people let out everything without hesitation.

Get Feedback Informally

Managers need to get feedback from their employees, but it doesn’t have to be formal. Most of the time it’s better if it’s not. Formal feedback like asking for feedback in meetings, through email, etc. can often feel like an interrogation, or like the manager is trying to find fault with the employee. This can make the employee defensive and less likely, to give honest feedback. Informal feedback can be given in a variety of ways. The manager can simply ask the employee how they’re doing, or what they think could be improved. Internal as well as external feedback are helpful for growth,

Be Present when Receiving Feedback

When a manager is present when their team is giving feedback, it shows that the manager is interested in their team’s growth and development. Real time feedback demonstrates that the manager trusts their team and values their input. Further, it shows that the manager values the team’s view on things like the manager’s own performance or the organizational culture. This can have a positive impact on team members and ultimately on team performance. By being present managers can also easily solve miscommunications or misinterpretations if any.

Use Reflective Questions during Feedback Discussion

Reflective questions are a great way for managers to carry out any feedback session. This includes asking about the strengths and weaknesses of the manager or the organization. It also includes asking about where specific changes could be made within the organization. These kinds of reflective questions can also prompt a true conversation between team members and managers so that they may co-form creative solutions to improve themselves or innovations in their workplace environment.

Find some questions here to get started: Employee Feedback For Managers: 10 Top Questions To Ask

Remain Positive

No one enjoys receiving criticism, but it is an important part of our professional lives. Whether we are seeking feedback or giving it, the way we react can make or break a relationship. When we receive feedback, our natural inclination may be to defend ourselves. However, this is not the best reaction.

Managers should be positive and receptive when receiving feedback, regardless of whether it is good or bad. This will show the person giving the feedback that you care about their opinion and that you are willing to work on improving your skills. Whether it is downward feedback from senior leadership or upward feedback from employees, managers should always make sure to receive them with positivity.

Read more: How to Handle Criticism at Work: Transforming Feedback into Growth Opportunity

Collect anonymous feedback on your managerial style

Managers should collect anonymous feedback from their employees regularly. This will help them to understand how their employees feel about their managerial style, and what areas they could improve in. Employees will also appreciate the opportunity to give feedback anonymously, as it will allow them to be honest without fear of retribution. Managers can use efficient tools such as Risely to effectively collect this anonymous feedback.

Grab handy examples here to master the art of constructive feedback easily:


Giving and receiving constructive feedback can be a tough task for both managers and employees. Luckily, by following these 7 easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a pro at it! We believe that by understanding the benefits of constructive feedback, and how to effectively give and receive it, you’ll be able to create a more productive team environment.

Want to learn more? Download the free constructive feedback toolkit now!

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