Giving feedback can be a positive or negative experience for both parties, depending on the message you need to deliver. However, no matter whether you’ve got a nice job or not, it will go a long way in showing employees how their performance is perceived. Feedback can be especially important if employees exhibit troubling behaviours and attitudes. Here, thoughtful and constructive criticism can help them to improve significantly. 

When delivering this, remember the word “constructive”. By delivering and framing your message the wrong way, recipients may feel attacked which often leads to defensive behaviour, hurt feelings and poor productivity. 

This blog will cover how to give constructive feedback & why it’s so important

Focus on How to Change

Criticism is often much more constructive when framed in the appropriate way. The best practice is to frame feedback in a way that is focused on the change that needs to occur without accusation or derogatory comments. Always include what the benefits of the change are to the person making them. 

Base Your Criticism on Behaviour –  Giving Constructive Feedback & Why It’s So Important

Constructive criticism should clearly highlight behaviour that you want to be changed. Should an employee consistently be late for work, rather than telling the recipient that they are irresponsible, provide the dates when they have been late. 

If you think an employee has been disrespectful, use examples of times they have rolled their eyes or sighed when being told about work that needs to be done. If an employee is not pulling their weight, don’t just tell them to be more of a team player. Instead, clearly indicate the specific behaviour you expect from them. 

Consider your Intentions 

Think carefully about why you feel you need to deliver the criticism. Should you really want to help improve an employees’ performance, approach giving the criticism in the same way you would want the information delivered to you. By staying factual you will avoid disputes and emotional confrontation. Allow for the discussion to be a conversation rather than a directive, leading to better outcomes. 

Present Feedback as an Opportunity 

Rather than using feedback to highlight faults, present it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. As we have previously discussed, consider your intentions in presenting feedback and whether you are willing to help the person learn from their mistakes. 

Choose a location that is confidential and allocate time to clearly understand the necessary steps that need to be taken. 

Holding Private Conversations

As a general rule of thumb, give positive feedback publically and give negative feedback privately. However, this should be taken with a pinch of salt as there are some exceptions. If a person feels humiliated or embarrassed when receiving feedback then criticism may hold little value. 

Criticism is given one-on-one in the right tone and with the right motive, it can often contribute great value. So make a careful judgement on where a larger lesson may need to be taught to the group – or where this employee may need some time behind closed doors to understand your intention.

Prepare Recipients For Feedback 

If you know you need to provide an employee with feedback, frame it with the desired outcome in mind and prepare recipients for the feedback that will be given. A little pre-warning for negative criticism can really help lessen the shock when it is received. You can say something like “I need to tell you something but it may be hard to hear”. 

If you are on the receiving end of this kind of criticism, look for the truth within the criticism that might be useful to help you improve your performance or results. 

Emotional Intelligence 

Consider your own feelings and emotional state of mind before delivering criticism. If you are angry or anxious, you may not approach the situation with the level-headedness necessary. Without realising you may approach the conversation as an attack that may backfire. 

Take a moment to consider how feedback will impact the receiver and your team’s productivity. Manage your emotions prior to giving feedback and chances are the message will be delivered in a more productive way. 

Don’t Burn a Bridge

The intention of constructive feedback is to build a person stronger rather than tear them down. You need to focus on the issue or the behaviour rather than the person in question. Be sure to mention the impact that the behaviour you wish to discuss has on the business. Coming from a palace of collaboration and support will help maintain that bridge of communication. 

Start with What is Working

Often, feedback can be given in the form of “brutal honesty”. Alternatively, it can be given with no truth at all where feelings are being spared. Truthful feedback should not really fall into either of these categories. 

Instead, it should be about telling the truth without blame and judgement. The truth often has two parts, something is going well and something needs to be improved. Start with what has been working well, then share ideas and suggestions on how other aspects could be improved – allowing them to offer their own thoughts too. 

Constructive Feedback & Why It's So Important (1)

Focus on Behaviour that can be Changed 

Avoid giving feedback by making broad-based claims without providing relevant evidence. For example, “You don’t listen” is less useful feedback than “I have explained this issue X times this week, you should consider taking notes if you have trouble remembering points from our meetings”.  Broad-based claims can often be interpreted as evaluations of character and can often cause harm. Constructive criticism serves to highlight that things can be changed whilst indicating how this can be done. 

Maintain Effective Communication 

If you disagree with someone on an idea, don’t shoot the idea down immediately. Doing so, may lead to resentment and may shut down your channel for communication and colleagues may feel less comfortable sharing ideas in the future. Instead focus on building a culture of collaboration that encourages constructive criticism, rather than quick objections. 

Remember Behaviour, Impact and Action

Constructive criticism describes the impact of specific behaviour rather than personality or perceived intent. Remember behaviour, impact and action. 

For example, you might outline a behaviour like handing in work late. Then you would outline the impact, for example, a client did not receive their service on time and complained. Then once you have outlined these, you could suggest an action such as noting down which tasks need to be prioritised before others. 

Be Objective and Respectful 

Respect the recipient’s dignity when delivering constructive criticism. Choose your words carefully so that you do not put the person in question on the defensive. Use the pronoun “I” more than “you”. For example, say things such as “I have noticed” or “I’m concerned about” rather than “you always” or “you never”. As we have previously mentioned, check your emotions before delivering the message as they can easily derail the message trying to be conveyed. 

Use Criticism for Good 

Criticism should always be intended to be informational rather than just constructive or destructive. If receiving criticism lowers your self-esteem then it is harmful. If you dismiss criticism out of hand, without examining its value, it will not serve any practical purpose. Instead, you should assess criticism objectively and without emotion. In doing so, you can discover useful information that will help you progress.  

Final Thoughts

We hope you found this blog on delivering constructive criticism and why it’s so important useful. To conclude, let’s summarise a few of the main talking points that you can use to provide more useful discussions. 

Delivering feedback, especially negative feedback can be extremely daunting especially if you don’t like confrontation. However, it is important to note that criticism when delivered constructively doesn’t need to be confrontational. 

When delivered in the right way, constructive criticism can be extremely useful as a tool to help people learn and grow. You should always make sure to provide a solution for criticism given otherwise it can often just be taken as an attack. You will also want to have clear evidence of any misbehaviour to ensure the recipient that they are not simply being picked on. 

You should also make sure to check your emotions before giving negative feedback. If you are angry or stressed you may deliver it in the wrong tone or more harshly than necessary, which can break down the line of communication and hurt feelings. 

You should also consider that not everyone takes criticism the same way. Some people may feel humiliated or embarrassed when receiving feedback. For this reason, it can often be a good idea to deliver negative criticism in a confidential setting. 

Lastly, if you should ever find yourself on the receiving end of criticism, you should remember to see it as an opportunity. You should analyse criticism received objectively and without emotion. Look for the truth within the criticism and use it as fuel to improve yourself. 

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