Constructive feedback is supportive in nature and designed to help employees improve or correct their performance or behavior. Note that the intention of such feedback is to achieve a positive outcome for the employee based on comments, advice, or suggestions.
Understanding constructive feedback
Constructive feedback is that which is dispensed to employees to help them improve their performance or behavior.
Constructive feedback may incorporate one or both of the following two elements:
Where the leader shows appreciation for work the employee has performed.
Acknowledging an individual’s performance – particularly in front of others – is an effective way to reinforce desirable workplace behaviors.
For leaders, criticism must be handled with care as it has the potential to cause poor culture and low performance.
In constructive feedback, it is imperative that criticism is related to the employee’s work and not to them as individuals.
When criticism is sincere and free from emotion, it enables the employee to avoid negative behaviors and learn from their mistakes.
Constructive feedback best practices
Certain best practices maximize the chances that feedback will be constructive:
Focus on observation
Constructive feedback should always relate to observed behavior. In other words, it should never be based on assumptions or subjective interpretation.
Focus on that which can be changed
Feedback is also constructive when it is based on factors within the employee’s direct control.
Solutions that are feasible, practical, and backed with examples have the best chance of success.
Leaders should avoid vague or generalized statements such as “You have a tendency to be aggressive in meetings” or “Your team mates have a problem with your conduct”.
Specific and observable behaviors, actions, or situations must be prefaced.
Be wary of the feedback sandwich
The feedback sandwich occurs when a leader inserts a harsh criticism between two compliments in an attempt to lessen its impact.
Criticism delivered in this way dilutes the process and is unlikely to be received favorably.
Examples of constructive feedback
What does constructive feedback look like in the workplace? Let’s take a look below.
Example 1 – Mary is constantly late for work
Possible feedback from her manager:
“When you are late to work every day, I feel frustrated and it does not set a good example for the rest of the team. Please remember that office hours are 8.30am to 5.00pm. Is there any valid reason for your tardiness? If not, I’d really love for you to arrive each day at 8.30am.”
Example 2 – Tom communicates well with others during a complex project
Possible feedback from his manager:
“Tom, I very much appreciate you keeping me informed on the progress of this important project. The consistent and clear communication you have demonstrated has enabled me to keep my own boss up-to-speed with the latest developments. I am pleasantly surprised by your contribution to this project and look forward to seeing you work on similar projects in future.”
Example 3 – Sophie tends to become dominant in group situations
Possible feedback from her manager:
“Sophie, there is no doubt that your passion and enthusiasm is an asset to this company and vital to helping us achieve organizational goals. Having said that, I have noticed that when I’ve chaired the meeting, you interrupt others or talk over the top of them. For future reference, it would be great if you could allow others the space to share their thoughts. While some of your colleagues may be less forthcoming with their opinions, we see a diversity of opinion as vital to our success.”
- Constructive feedback is that which is dispensed to employees to help them improve their performance or behavior.
- Constructive feedback may incorporate praise, criticism, or a mixture of both. Criticism must be delivered in such a way that it is not counterintuitive.
- Certain best practices maximize the chances that feedback will be constructive, such as a focus on observable behavior and those factors in direct control of the employee. It’s also important to avoid vague statements and the dreaded feedback sandwich.
Additional Related Concepts
Agile Project Management
Main Free Guides: