What is constructive employee feedback?
Constructive feedback in the workplace is as much about encouraging and supporting our employees as it is correcting performance.
Anyone can give feedback. But for it to be constructive, the feedback should be fact-based and solution-oriented. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 11 different ways you can give constructive feedback to your team, and build a stronger business because of it.
11 ways for managers to give constructive feedback
The feedback your employees receive from managers can be invaluable to their professional development. If it’s given appropriately, that is.
Here are some tips to help you give more effective and constructive feedback to your employees.
1. Build a culture of trust within your team
If you want your employees to accept your feedback, they need to respect you and trust your intentions are good. This is especially important if you are fairly new to managing a team or there has been some tension with a particular employee.
Start by coming from a place of vulnerability. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Reflect on the situation and be willing to explain to your team what you’d like to try next time.
This small gesture can help humanize you as a manager and normalize the fact that mistakes will get made from time to time. Such is life.
2. Solicit manager feedback from your employees
Asking for feedback as a leader doesn’t just help you improve as a manager. It can also help you build trust with your employees and make feedback the norm with your team.
3. Give constructive feedback frequently to ensure it’s effective
Did you know that only 58% of employees think their managers give enough feedback?
Documenting problems and trying to address them all at once may make your employees feel bombarded or caught off guard. Instead of waiting until an annual performance review, just-in-time feedback is a better way to go.
If you notice one of your employees has gone above and beyond, let them know you appreciate their work. If something isn’t working, take the time to deal with the problem before it gets out of hand.
Consistent feedback will show your team you are engaged in the work they do and want to help them succeed.
4. Avoid using feedback to micromanage your employees
Frequent feedback is good. Providing too much feedback, however, isn’t always necessary or wanted. For the best results, try to make sure your employees feel empowered to do their job.
If you think they are about to make a mistake, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
If the action would cause significant harm to your organization or customers, it’s absolutely appropriate to intervene.
If not, try to take a step back. If you need to, try to coach your employee by asking why they are doing something instead of straight out telling them it’s wrong or how they could do it better.
5. Don’t be afraid to provide negative feedback to your team
Negative feedback isn’t always bad. When done correctly, it can help your employees.
Believe it or not, 57% of employees would prefer to receive corrective feedback than praise. Your employees want to do well. And they need constructive feedback to do that.
How you give the feedback, though, matters. You need to make sure your delivery is appropriate. Before giving negative feedback, make sure you share your intentions for giving feedback.
6. Show your employees respect when you provide constructive feedback
There’s a time and a place for constructive feedback. And sometimes, it’s better done in private.
If you are providing positive feedback, by all means publicly acknowledge your employee. Actually, do it often. Recognizing your employees is one of the most important things you can do as a manager.
Truth be told, only 21% of employees feel strongly valued at work. By recognizing what your employees are doing well, you can help strengthen relationships and make them more engaged in their work.
But if you need to correct a behavior or address a skill gap, it’s best to keep your feedback private. Instead of calling them out in front of the team or customers, schedule a time to meet or set up a one-on-one remote meeting to provide constructive feedback.
7. Explain the “why” behind your employee feedback
If your employees aren’t performing as expected, show them what you expect and explain why.
Instead of focusing on what they did wrong, show them what should have been done. If you have documented policies or procedures, share these with your employees to help clarify your expectations.
Explain why things need to be done a certain way so they understand the importance of following procedure.
8. Focus on behaviors when giving feedback to your employees—not personalities
How you word or say something can affect the quality of the feedback you’re giving.
To ensure the feedback you’re giving your employees is effective, it’s crucial that you focus on the behavior—not the person.
For example, while providing feedback, instead of saying you’re disrespectful, try to focus on the actions that are disrespectful.
Be mindful of your non-verbals too—such as body language and eye contact. This is what reveals your underlying intentions and feelings.
9. Listen to understand after providing constructive feedback
Giving employee feedback isn’t about you telling them what they need to improve. We need to listen to understand what our employees are feeling or situations we may be unaware of.
It’s important that they are a part of the conversation and feel heard. Ask your employees what challenges they are facing and how you can help the team overcome them.
For example, if an employee is chronically late, it may be because their childcare arrangement has changed because of COVID-19. Instead of trying to change an unchangeable situation, when you listen, you can identify real solutions.
10. Provide your employees with growth and development resources
If you’re trying to address a skill gap, don’t just tell your employees what they’re doing wrong. Give them resources to help them improve their skills.
And you don’t have to create an elaborate training session or spend money on an eLearning program. Instead, take the time to find resources that can help your employees perform better.
Curating content from YouTube, LinkedIn learning, or other websites means you don’t have to invest a lot of money in development. It also shows your employees you’re on their side and want to help them succeed.
11. Identify the next steps & decide how to move forward
When you’re giving your employees feedback, it’s important to ensure they leave knowing what you expect from them. Work together to create a plan and schedule a time to check back in with your employees.
Constructive employee feedback examples for managers
Constructive feedback example #1: Giving an employee feedback about their performance
Instead of: “Across the board, you’re not meeting your performance goals this quarter. Your performance has consistently been declining and I’m worried you can’t effectively do your job.”
Try: “I wanted to check in about your performance goals for this quarter. I’ve noticed a decline in meeting your goals this quarter. [Share employee’s current performance]. Meeting these goals is important because [share why these goals matter]. I can see how hard you are working. Are there any barriers you’re facing? I’d like to understand how I can help you meet your goals this quarter.”
Why this works: Before giving performance feedback to your employees, it’s important to consider which behaviors you want to address. By giving specific feedback about the current performance, your employee will likely be less defensive and more willing to listen. Following up with a question starts a conversation so you can learn what the challenges are.
Constructive feedback example #2: Giving an employee feedback about their communication skills
Instead of: “We need to talk about your communication skills. Your emails make the team feel disrespected. I’ve found a training that can help you develop these skills.”
Try: “I’ve noticed some of your emails to the team have been a little critical. Your team and I respect and admire [insert employee strength]. Giving feedback, especially to colleagues can be difficult. I myself sometimes struggle with finding the right words to say. Is there something I can do to help you provide more effective feedback?”
Why this works: Rather than directly focusing on your employee’s lack of skills, explaining what you’ve noticed keeps your feedback fact-based. By complimenting your employee and being honest about your own struggles, you can help build trust. Instead of jumping right to training as the solution, asking your employee what they need allows them to reflect on their performance and think about what would help them improve their skills.
Constructive feedback example #3: Giving an employee feedback about absences
Instead of: “Your attendance is becoming a problem. Leave needs to be requested at least [insert required time] in advance. Please let me know the reason behind your leave. You should also read our policy on requesting leave if you have any questions about acceptable absences.”
Try: “I’ve noticed you’ve been taking more time off work with short notice. When this happens, [share how this affects the team or the employee’s performance]. I know work-life balance can sometimes be difficult to achieve. Can you tell me more about your absences?”
Why this works: Yes, referring to the policy can clarify expectations, but chances are your employee already knows. Instead of drilling your employee, talk to them. Let them know how their absences are affecting the team and listen. Perhaps there are solutions that meet your employee’s and team’s needs.
When to give constructive feedback to employees
There are several opportunities to provide constructive feedback to your employees in the workplace. Here are three ways to give your employees feedback when they need it most.
Give feedback during your one-on-one meetings
One-on-one meetings are a great way to check in with your employees and strengthen your relationship. Is also a good time to discuss employee goals and identify roadblocks.
If you’re concerned about their performance, don’t be afraid to address it in your one-on-one meeting. This private space is a great time to have honest conversations about difficult topics. It’s also a great time to provide positive feedback and acknowledge your employees.
Provide frequent just-in-time employee feedback
Providing timely feedback in the office can be difficult. With remote work, there are often even more barriers. But real-time feedback is crucial to ensuring the feedback you provide is effective.
With tools like TINYpulse’s 360 feedback, you can solicit feedback from anyone at any time. Take the time to ask your employees how they are feeling and where they need help from you. You’ll only need a few minutes.
Seek and provide project-based feedback
Think back to the last project your team or employee completed. Was feedback given?
If not, it’s a good idea to start implementing project-based feedback. At the end of every project (big or small), take the time to reflect on the experience. Give everyone a chance to share what went well and what didn’t.
This type of feedback exchange ensures your employees get feedback from the group as well as you. It can also help your future projects be more successful.
Is the feedback you give constructive?
Your employees want your feedback—both the good and the bad. But whether your feedback is effective is a different story.
Before you can give constructive feedback, you need to lay the groundwork by developing a culture of trust. Ask your employees to give you manager feedback and make sure you give feedback privately.
By paying attention to your delivery and body language, you can ensure your employees feel respected and know what you expect from them. It’s the easiest way to build a more cohesive team that’s able to accomplish more and delight your customers on a deeper level.