Constructive Feedback In A Nutshell

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.

Be specific

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.

Key takeaways

  • 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 Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although in some cases, this management style might be understood, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

RASCI Matrix

A RASCI matrix is used to assign and then display the various roles and responsibilities in a project, service, or process. It is sometimes called a RASCI Responsibility Matrix. The RASCI matrix is essentially a project management tool that provides important clarification for organizations involved in complex projects.

Organizational Structure

An organizational structure allows companies to shape their business model according to several criteria (like products, segments, geography and so on) that would enable information to flow through the organizational layers for better decision-making, cultural development, and goals alignment across employees, managers, and executives. 

Tactical Management

Tactical management involves choosing an appropriate course of action to achieve a strategic plan or objective. Therefore, tactical management comprises the set of daily operations that support long strategy delivery. It may involve risk management, regular meetings, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

High-Performance Management

High-performance management involves the implementation of HR practices that are internally consistent and aligned with organizational strategy. Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.

Scientific Management

Scientific Management Theory was created by Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 as a means of encouraging industrial companies to switch to mass production. With a background in mechanical engineering, he applied engineering principles to workplace productivity on the factory floor. Scientific Management Theory seeks to find the most efficient way of performing a job in the workplace.

Change Management


TQM Framework

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.

Agile Project Management

Agile Management
Agile Project Management (AgilePM) seeks to bring order to chaotic corporate environments using several tools, techniques, and elements of the project lifecycle. Fundamentally, agile project management aims to deliver maximum value according to specific business priorities in the time and budget allocated. AgilePM is particularly useful in situations where the drive to deliver is greater than the perceived risk.

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