Corporate Wellness

How To Give Constructive Feedback

Sometimes even positive feedback delivered in the wrong way can be triggering for your colleagues. If you are wondering how to give constructive feedback without sounding like a know-it-all, and especially without coming off as rude, keep these points in mind.

By URLife Team
22 Dec 2022

Knowing your weaknesses and learning how to improve upon them is critical to succeed professionally. In this sense, feedback sessions aren’t just important for improving employee-employer relations, but also to strengthen your skillset at work.

A 2016 report by PwC, a consulting company, shows that 72 per cent of employees under 30 years old would like to receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis. Individuals have seen improved productivity and reduced communication gap after their managers have started giving constructive feedback.

As an increasing number of employers and employees continue putting their faith in this solid technique, the real question is what is constructive criticism and how to give constructive feedback to your employees without demotivating them?


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What is Constructive Feedback?

Constructive criticism is an effective way to help employees improve their skills and develop good behaviour. It is a type of feedback that is not demeaning, even when delivering negative comments. When constructive feedback is provided, employees can recognise areas of improvement and growth in their roles.

Giving feedback to employees is an integral part of the work culture. Positive criticism can increase morale and motivation among employees. However, providing feedback is not always easy, as even experienced managers can struggle to communicate it in a manner that is not perceived as criticism or a direct insult to their working patterns. This can have a damaging effect on the relationship with employees.


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How to Give Constructive Feedback

Not all feedback is helpful, and when given in the wrong way, it can make the recipient feel targeted, leading to hurt and, ultimately, loss of motivation. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of how you frame and communicate your criticism to ensure it is constructive.

Here are a few ways to carry out a healthy feedback session to strengthen communication within your team.


1. Begin By Observing, Don’t Simply Assume

You might have heard any team members complaining about an individual in your team about something they did, or they practise the action regularly, which is not convenient for everyone else. In such a situation, instead of jumping right in and confronting the individual, you first need to observe what is wrong and analyse what needs to be done to make it better.

Example: Instead of saying, “(name) told me you have been arriving late at the office by an hour. Is that true?” say –

“I have noticed you struggle to make it to the office on time. I’m concerned about your late arrival. Are you facing any problems? We can discuss if you need help improving your time management.”


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2. Prepare Them Beforehand

When providing feedback, focus on the desired result and let the recipient know that you have something challenging to say. Though it may be hard to hear, constructive criticism can provide useful insight to help them improve.

Example: It’s always a good habit to inform your employee beforehand that you will be holding a feedback session with them and discussing specific pointers. You can call them in your cabin and let them know when you’ll share your feedback about their performance or role in the latest project.


3. Make the Conversation Private

Publicly appreciate and privately criticise. This is typically the best way to go about it in most cases. It likely won't be effective if the feedback makes the recipient feel uneasy or embarrassed. Hence, it’s best to critique someone one-on-one, especially when you want to make sure that they don’t take it the wrong way.


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4. Focus On The Possibilities Than The Mistakes

A feedback session can go haywire in many ways, especially when you’re not prepared. You can unintentionally focus more on the person’s mistakes and not enough on how they can improve. So, focus more on explaining to them how bringing changes can enable better professional growth.

Example: Begin the feedback meeting by stating your intentions. You can do that by explaining why you are the right person to critique them for this and how this positive criticism will help them further grow in their career.


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5. Commence with What’s Working

There are two parts to how criticism works: it begins with what is working and later proceeds to what is not working, which follows sharing tips on correcting the mistakes.

Example: If your employee has made the mistake of not paying attention to details but has successfully mastered their time management skills, begin by praising their potential to manage time successfully and how that has further helped them grow.

Start with: “I have noticed you are making efforts to manage your time efficiently. It has really helped you work better on this project. Along with this, I want you to now start paying more attention to details, as it will further eliminate minor errors.”


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6. Understand When to Get to the Point

A common misbelief is that constructive criticism should be accompanied by a positive beginning and conclusion. But sometimes being positive can give the other person the wrong impression. Hence, it is best to be direct, understand when to get to the point, and provide advice on rectifying mistakes.


7. Base Your Constructive Criticism on Behaviour

Ideally, feedback is entirely based on the recipient’s behaviour that you want them to change. Therefore, it’s better to be specific and provide corrective criticism based on how they have been behaving and the exact behaviour you want them to portray.

Example: Rather than accusing them of being irresponsible, provide examples of when they have come in late. Instead of calling them disrespectful, point out the instances where their behaviour was hurtful to someone. Instead of asking them to be a "team player," specify the behaviour that you expect.


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8. Centre Your Feedback On The Behaviour That Can Be Changed

Many people make general statements about others without giving proof, which can be seen as judgmental and damaging. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, focuses on specific areas for improvement and offers suggestions for making those changes.

Example: Saying they are not prepared to lead a meeting is less helpful. Instead, tell them exactly what they are missing and how they can practice it to be able to initiate the discussion.


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9. Preserve Cooperative Communication

Rather than quickly shooting down a colleague's idea, focus on fostering a culture of collaboration that encourages constructive criticism. Responding with a harsh response could curtail communication and discourage further idea-sharing.

Example: Instead of saying, “I don’t want to go ahead with your idea,” focus on bringing positivity to the conversation.

You can do so by saying, “I appreciate your initiative in participating in the conversation. However, what you have currently suggested won’t work because of (explanation). Your idea is great; I will keep this idea in mind for our next meeting.”


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10. Don’t Get Personal

When providing constructive feedback, it's essential to differentiate the individual from their behaviour. Concentrate on the matter at hand, be it a pattern or performance on a certain project, without making general statements about them as a professional. If it appears like a personal insult, the individual is more likely to retreat, become defensive, and not have faith in you. It will prevent them from seeing what your criticism actually is: an opportunity to learn and grow.

Example: If you notice frequent errors in your team member’s recent reports, show them what mistakes they have made and guide them into how they can improve by frequently proofreading documents before sending them. This approach is better than saying you are incapable of being a good writer.


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Constructive Feedback: A Strong Boost for Employees When Done Right

Constructive criticism is intended to construct and bolster someone, not to undermine them. Highlight the effect their behaviour had on the business. Keeping the conversation collaborative and supportive keeps your feedback positive.

Regularly employing a regular chain of feedback sessions is taking the right step towards building a positive workplace. But how practical is it to incorporate this practice in a corporate setting? Many individuals fear the word criticism as they relate it with negative emotions. This may make them reluctant to get regular feedback and fear getting input on their work.


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So, how to nurture a feedback-positive culture in the work environment? It begins with communication. Your attention should be on building strong communication channels between you and your team. Be open to honest conversations with your team members and employees so they don’t feel the need to justify themselves when asked to prepare for feedback.

Lastly, when done right, constructive criticism can be a valuable asset in improving your team’s overall performance and building your relations with your team. At first, it might seem awkward, but you need to start from somewhere, right?


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