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How to Give Effective Constructive Feedback and Improve Workplace Performance

author Ranee profile imageRanee Zhang
Jul 02, 20225 mins
What is Constructive Feedback?

As a manager or team leader, giving feedback to your team is part of your job. It helps your team members understand where their performance stands and gives them ideas on how to improve their areas of weakness.

You should note, however, that not all feedback is good. Some feedback can demoralize and demotivate your team. If you want feedback to be effective, you should focus on constructive feedback.

This guide will help you understand constructive feedback, its purpose and elements, and how to give constructive feedback. We’ll also share some helpful examples of how to give constructive feedback.

What is Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is feedback that is given with the main purpose of helping a person improve their skills, performance, productivity, or behavior. ‍

Unlike destructive feedback, which is not helpful and does not resolve the problem, constructive criticism helps the other party identify their weaknesses and provides solutions on how they can get better in these areas.

This does not mean that constructive feedback is always positive. You can give constructive feedback by praising or criticizing a person’s actions. However, constructive feedback is always focused on providing solutions.

Elements of Constructive Feedback

Feedback can only be described as constructive if it meets these conditions:

It’s Specific

Constructive feedback is not vague. It points out exactly what the problem is and gives details about what needs to be fixed.

For example, if you are an editor, telling a writer they have poor-quality content is not constructive feedback. It doesn’t help them in any way since it doesn’t tell them what makes their writing poor or what they need to work on.

In this case, a better way to give constructive feedback would be to say something more specific, like, “your content doesn’t address what our target audience is looking for.” Such feedback leaves no doubts about what the writer needs to improve.

It’s Not Personal

Constructive feedback shouldn’t be personal, judgmental, or accusatory. It focuses on a person’s actions rather than who they are. It addresses the problematic actions or behaviors without trying to place the blame on the person.

For example, if you’re giving feedback to an employee who is constantly missing deadlines, saying that they are lazy makes your feedback accusatory and assumptive. Instead, let them know how missing deadlines will negatively affect the workflow and find out whether they have any difficulties in finishing their work.

It’s Based on Observation, Not Inference

When giving someone constructive feedback, never try to interpret or make assumptions about their actions before talking to them. You should only address what you’ve observed and allow them to explain why those actions occurred.

It Focuses on Things That Can Be Changed

Constructive feedback is only given when it addresses something that the other person can change or improve. If whatever you’re addressing is out of their control, there is no point in addressing it.

For example, if someone missed a deadline because they fell sick, this is not something within their control. Therefore, telling them that it shouldn’t happen again is not constructive feedback because they can’t do a thing about such a situation.

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Here are five tips that will help you give constructive feedback more effectively:

Think About Your Desired Outcome

The first step to giving effective constructive feedback is to think about your desired outcome. What do you want to achieve by giving feedback? What kind of change do you want to see?

Answering these questions will help you figure out what to say and the best way to say it to get the other person to make the change you want.

Make It Timely

Constructive feedback is most effective when given immediately after you notice something you want to address. When you address it immediately, the issue will still be fresh in the other person’s mind. It will be easier for them to internalize and act on the feedback.

If you wait days or weeks to give feedback, the other person will likely have forgotten about the issue. It’s very unlikely that they’ll take any action. Some might even take your feedback for a witch-hunt since they don’t remember the matter you’re addressing.

Pick The Right Place

A lot of managers prefer to give feedback during team meetings. While this is okay for positive feedback, it doesn’t work for negative feedback. If your feedback includes some form of criticism, doing it in front of the whole team can be embarrassing and demoralizing for the employee receiving the feedback.

Ideally, you should give constructive feedback during one-on-meetings with your employee. Doing it in such a private setting alleviates the embarrassment and provides a better environment for you to discuss the matter with your employee candidly.

Explain The Impact of the Undesirable Action

When giving constructive feedback, you can just highlight the undesired behavior, give recommendations on how to improve, and leave it at that. However, if you want to make your feedback more effective, explain why you have an issue with this behavior.

For instance, if you’re giving feedback to an employee who has constantly been showing up late for work, you could explain the impact of their behavior with something like, “By coming to work late, it feels like you’re letting the rest of the team down, and it can end up negatively affecting team behavior.

Doing this helps the employee understand why their behavior is wrong and makes them more likely to take action and change it.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Remember, constructive feedback aims to help your employees improve. After coming up with solutions on how they can get better, you need to regularly check back on them and see if they are making improvements.

If they are effectively implementing the changes, recognize and praise their effort. If not, find out why and, together with them, devise a plan on how they can make the change.

Examples of Constructive Feedback

Feedback After Employee Misses a Team Meeting

I noticed that you did not attend our team meeting today. I know how passionate you are about your work, and I understand that you have a lot on your plate at the moment. However, I need you to manage your time better, so you don’t end up missing meetings.

These meetings are an important opportunity for the team to collaborate and update each other about progress in different project areas. I will not condone anyone missing the team meetings.

Feedback About Lack of Attention to Detail

I love the effort you put into delivering high-quality work, and I encourage you to keep that up. However, I’ve recently noticed some small errors in your reports. I know you’re pretty busy at the moment, and errors can slip through, but such errors can be costly to the organization.

I wanted to bring it to your attention so that this doesn’t happen going forward. I would like you to come up with a checklist of all the key things you need to include in your report and go through it before submitting the next couple of reports.

Feedback About Declining Performance

I’ve noticed that your work performance has been declining over the last month, and you missed your monthly KPIs. 

I know you have always been very productive and results-oriented, so I wanted to reach out to you and find out if you have any issues affecting your work. Let’s discuss it and see how I can help you regain your impressive performance.

Feedback About Tardiness

I wanted to check in with you to ensure everything is okay. You are a hardworking person who is always on time, but I noticed you’ve been showing up late most days for the last two weeks. 

I can’t allow this to continue since it will negatively affect team morale. Is there something troubling you, and is there anything I can do to help you get back on track?”

Feedback to A Remote Employee About Poor Communication

You are a highly skilled and creative web designer, and we appreciate your contribution to the team. However, I noticed that you did not send the weekly status report last week and did not respond to several emails from various team members this week.

This affects the whole project since we rely on your reports to make decisions about the upcoming sprints. I would appreciate it if you sent the status report today and responded to the emails. If you have an issue troubling you, feel free to discuss it with me so we can find the solution and prevent such a situation in the future.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to give constructive feedback is essential for you as a manager. It helps your team identify and improve their areas of weakness and pushes them to achieve their best without hurting employee motivation and team morale.

We hope that the tips and examples we’ve shared in this guide will help you get better at giving constructive feedback to your team. However, remember that constructive feedback is only one element of performance management.

Ranee Zhang

Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.

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