Tips To Giving Constructive Feedback

Tips To Giving Constructive Feedback

We’ve all been there before. It’s time to review someone’s work. Maybe it’s an employee you manage or one of your students, or maybe it’s a co-worker or colleague. It could even be a classmate or another peer. No matter who it is, it can be a little awkward to be giving feedback to someone. Especially if you aren’t used to doing it, or if this is your first time. Feedback is certainly a necessary part of growing, learning, and getting better, but the delivery can be a little tricky. While it’s important to communicate what needs to be fixed or improved upon, we don’t want our constructive feedback to come off as mean. Even worse, we don’t want to cause a scene or create a situation in which a major negative reaction is possible

This is why it’s so essential to find the right tactics to deliver constructive feedback. It can be a helpful and useful skill in just about every facet of life there is. 

“Managers should offer constructive criticism to avoid offending or discouraging employees while still providing detailed comments on what might be improved. Constructive criticism can encourage employees and provide direction and actionable solutions to the issue of discussion. In addition, it creates a transparent and trustworthy work environment where colleagues can share input without fear of hurting feelings.”

– Ivan Andreev, Senior Associate, Valamis

Identify What Went Well First

When we’re approaching the delivery of constructive feedback and constructive criticism it’s important to first identify the things that went well or landed positively. This is because the perspective from which we approach feedback can greatly influence the way that it is received by the intended recipient. 

By identifying things that went well with the first iteration you can establish a sense of confidence and reassurance in the person receiving the critique. This is essential in ensuring that the following criticisms don’t totally discourage and demotivate the person.  

“It’s so important to recognize what went well before discussing what went wrong or where we screwed up. Most of the time, my team already knows when something went wrong or when a flagrant mistake was made. So we like to learn from mistakes but not dwell on them.”

– John Jacob, CEO, Hoist

Identify the Area Needing Improvement

After some reassurance is delivered, you can get into the meat of the criticism or critiques you need to deliver. It’s important to identify the specific mistakes that were made or any particular details that need to be redone. It isn’t enough to just say something is wrong without providing any direction on how to correct the errors. 

This is essential in elevating the individual in the future as well. Giving clear directions on what needs to be fixed and how that can be accomplished will help people avoid making the same mistake on similar projects moving forward. 

“If someone doesn’t know what went wrong or how to fix it, that’s on me. And since that’s on me, I try to take it upon myself to teach the person at fault how to do it right moving forward. We’re only as strong as our weakest link, after all.”

– Max Schwartzapfel, CMO, Fighting For You

Be Honest, not Mean

There is a difference between being honest and being mean. Being honest is honorable, and we could probably all strive to be a little more truthful. Not only with ourselves, but with our loved ones and the other people in our lives as well. Being honest when delivering constructive criticism is integral to achieving the desired results. No one learns anything if criticism is constantly being sugar-coated and swept under the rug. 

However, there is a way to be honest that isn’t mean, underhanded, or spiteful. This is a type of criticism known as destructive criticism which leaves the recipient feeling bad about themselves and their capabilities. Not only that, but destructive criticism leaves people feeling unmotivated and unenergetic. All of this contributes to a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and worse job performance moving forward. 

This is why it’s so vital for organizational managers to be comfortable and practiced with the art of delivering constructive criticism in a non-negative and truthfully constructive manner. 

“There is nothing worse than seeing a new employee with nothing but potential sink into themselves because they made a few mistakes and their manager reamed them for it. That doesn’t help anyone. No one is better for it. Good managers teach, they don’t scold.”

– Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder, Pocketbook Agency

Relate to the Situation

When delivering constructive criticism, it’s also important to remember all the times you’ve been on the other end of a similar conversation. Empathizing with the person receiving the constructive criticism can help you understand what they’re going through and where they might be struggling. 

This can also inform the ways in which you guide them through the feedback that you’re offering. 

“I’ve been around a bit longer than most of the other people in the organization, so I’ve encountered a lot more. What I mean is I’ve probably made every mistake possible in this industry. I can’t get mad at someone else for making the same mistake I made once. It’s just about learning as you go.”

– Stephen Skeel, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, 7 Wonders Cinema

Offer to Help or Explain Further

Finally, when it comes to nailing the delivery of constructive criticism, it’s important that there is an actionable path moving forward. Whether it’s on the individual themselves to go back through and correct the work, or if it will be a team effort to get things right and accurate. Regardless though, it’s important that the individual is empowered and feels supported in moving forward with the process. 

Offering further explanation or additional help can sometimes be the exact bridge someone needs. 

“When giving constructive criticism, it’s critical to concentrate on the precise action, result, or behavior you’d like to see improved. If one of your employees isn’t reaching call quotas for daily or weekly goals, for example, you’d focus on what steps you may take to help them enhance their productivity and achieve their quotas.”

– Patrick Algrim, Author, Algrim

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Jabeen Panchaya
Writer and Reviewer


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