constructive feedback

Feedback is critical for both personal and professional growth – it helps individuals identify areas for improvement, learn new skills, and enhance their performance. In this article, we will discuss some proven strategies for giving and receiving constructive feedback- as well as tips on how to make the process easier and more productive for everyone involved!

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What is Constructive Feedback?

Constructive feedback is a type of feedback aimed at providing specific and actionable suggestions for someone to improve their skills, performance, or behavior. It is intended to be helpful, supportive, and revolving around future possibilities – rather than critical, negative, or focused on the past.

Below is an example of how this approach differs from the conventional way:

  • Traditional: “Your presentation was not good. You were disorganized and didn’t cover all the key points.”
  • Constructive: “I think your presentation had a lot of potential, but there were a few areas that could be improved. For example, it might be helpful to organize your thoughts beforehand to ensure that you cover all the key points. Additionally, you could try to practice your delivery to make sure it flows smoothly and engages the audience.”

As you may see, traditional feedback is very blunt and negative, while constructive one discusses specific areas for improvement – and offers actionable suggestions for how to improve. As a result, the latter is more likely to be received positively and result in real improvement, while the former just – most of the time – leaves the recipient feeling discouraged and unsure of what to do next.

Understanding the Benefits of Constructive Feedback

Providing advice to colleagues is crucial in the workplace – that said, this should be done in a respectful, supportive way that encourages individuals and teams to grow and develop.

Below are a few among the various reasons to consider adopting a constructive approach to exchanging feedback:

Benefits of constructive feedback

  • Improvement: Positive comments point out areas for improvement – hence, individuals and teams gain a more holistic awareness of how to develop their skills and make progress toward their goals.
  • Clarity: Feedback provides clarity and direction for people to understand what needs to be done to succeed.
  • Engagement: Constructive advice makes people feel more engaged and invested in their work, as they are able to see the impact of their efforts and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Motivation: When delivered in a supportive manner, feedback provides the essential motivation for individuals/ teams to continue to work towards their objectives and improve their performance.
  • Trust: Last but not least, respectful feedback lays the foundation for trust between team members, as they feel supported and valued. As colleagues have complete faith in each other, they are more likely to collaborate effectively – which ultimately leads to enhanced performance.

Criticism vs. Feedback – What are the differences?

Criticism and feedback are both ways of communicating evaluation of someone’s work or behavior, but there are certain differences in the tone, intention, and delivery of the two.

A criticism is usually negative, judgmental, and focused on what’s wrong or lacking. It tends to be delivered in a harsh or unsympathetic manner – often feels like a personal attack. Hence, it is usually not very helpful and doesn’t present actionable steps for improvement.

On the other hand, the intention of feedback is to help the person improve and grow – rather than to tear them down. For this reason, it’s normally delivered in a supportive and respectful tone – and, most of the time, involves a list of suggestions on what should be done to resolve concurrent issues.

Here is a brief analysis of how these two approaches differ from each other:

 CriticismFeedback
Tone and delivery

Harsh, abrasive and insensitive

“Your presentation was terrible, you clearly didn’t prepare enough.”

Respectful and supportive

“Your presentation had some good points, but it could have been more effective if you had spent more time practicing and preparing.”

Focus

Personal disagreement

“You’re always so disorganized, it’s frustrating to work with you.”

Future possibility

“I noticed that you had trouble keeping track of your deadlines last week. Have you considered using a to-do list or calendar to stay organized?”

Intention

Make people feel bad about themselves

“You’re never going to be successful if you keep making these mistakes.”

Give them hope, courage and motivation to move forward

“I see potential in you, but to really excel, you might want to work on improving these areas.”

What Makes Good Constructive Feedback?

Feedback should be delivered in a manner that promotes positive growth and improvement in the recipient. Some characteristics of good constructive feedback include:

  • Specific: Related to a particular behavior or action, clear and detailed enough for the receiver to understand what needs to be worked on.
  • Timely: Delivered as close to the event as possible – so that the concerned party may easily recall the situation and apply the advice.
  • Objective: Based on facts and observations, rather than personal opinions or biases.
  • Balanced: Including both positive and negative aspects – but focusing on encouragement and acknowledgement of areas where the recipient is doing well.
  • Actionable: Presenting detailed suggestions on behaviors that should be changed or modified.
  • Respectful: Delivered in a respectful manner, with a focus on helping the recipient grow and develop, rather than criticizing or belittling them.
  • Collaborative: Involving a two-way conversation, in which the recipient is given the opportunity to discuss their personal perspectives and ask questions. This ensures that the feedback is well understood and may be applied effectively.

What makes good constructive feedback

Types of Constructive Feedback

  • Positive feedback: Acknowledging and reinforcing positive behaviors/ actions – with the intention of building confidence and motivation in the receiver.
  • Corrective feedback: Identifying past mistakes and their causes – so that the recipient gains a more holistic understanding of themselves and comes up with solutions to move forward.
  • Coaching feedback: Focused on providing the necessary guidance and resources for the recipient to develop new skills/ improve existing ones.
  • Directive feedback: Involving specific instructions on what the recipient should do to boost their current performance.
  • Appreciative/ Motivative feedback: Showing appreciation for the recipient’s efforts and contributions – which is crucial to building long-lasting positive relationships and engagement.

Read more: 8 Fundamental Coaching Skills for Leaders & Managers

Encouraging Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

Giving constructive feedback in the workplace is essential for nurturing a culture of growth and development. Here, we map out some real-life examples of typical destructive patterns in the workplace – and how to turn them into opportunities for learning and growth:

  • Situation: During a meeting, a team member frequently interrupts others and dominates the conversation.

Feedback: “I appreciate your enthusiasm and contribution to the meeting. However, I noticed that you interrupted others and didn’t allow them to finish their thoughts. It’s important to give everyone a chance to speak and share their ideas. In the future, please try to be more mindful of this and give others an opportunity to contribute.”

Tip: Be specific about the behavior that needs to change and offer suggestions for improvement.

  • Situation: A report submitted by an employee contains errors and inaccuracies.

Feedback: “I appreciate the effort you put into this report, but there are several errors and inaccuracies that need to be corrected. In the future, please take the time to review your work carefully before submitting it. This will help ensure that we are providing accurate information to our clients.”

Tip: Focus on the behavior or situation that needs improvement, rather than criticizing the individual.

  • Situation: An employee is struggling to meet deadlines and complete tasks on time.

Feedback: “I understand that you are working on several projects at once, but it’s important that we meet our deadlines and complete our work on time. Have you considered prioritizing your tasks and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps? This can help you stay organized and on track.”

Tip: Offer actionable suggestions for improvement and provide support or resources if necessary.

constructive feedback in the workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

When it comes to giving feedback, the focus should always be on the behavior or situation – rather than the person themselves. Here are some guidelines for leaders/ team members to provide more valuable and constructive advice in a professional setting.

Build trust

Whether you are a manager or colleague of the recipient, a foundation of trust is crucial to increase the likelihood that your feedback will be accepted and put to use. Otherwise, it may be tough for them to deem your opinion as helpful – communication may then struggle as a result.

Be specific

Present specific examples of behaviors/ situations that need improvement – so that the individual visualizes precisely what needs to be changed and does not interpret our message in unwanted ways.

For instance, instead of saying, “You’re not a very good communicator,” you could say, “During our team meeting yesterday, I noticed that you interrupted other team members several times.”

Or “To help stay organized, I suggest using a task management app or making a to-do list each morning.” instead of saying “You need to be more organized”.

Focus on the positive

While giving feedback, be sure to highlight the strengths and positive aspects of the person’s performance. By focusing on what has gone well and future possibilities, not only will people become less defensive and more receptive to new ideas – but you also provide them with the necessary “fuel” to keep up with their previous achievements and to constantly identify areas for personal development.

E.g:

“I want to start by saying how impressed I am with your dedication and hard work on this project.”

“While you’ve done a great job with meeting the deadlines, I’ve noticed that the quality of the work could be improved. For example, there were some errors in the report that needed to be corrected.”

Read more: Feedforward – 10 Reasons to Try It Over Feedback

Talk face-to-face

Face-to-face meetings are generally preferable for delivering constructive criticism over electronic communication methods such as email, instant messenger, or phone, as these lack important contextual cues like tone, body language, and emotional inflection. Without these cues, it’s easy to misinterpret or dismiss the intended message.

Aside from that, in-person conversations are also more dynamic, allowing both parties to ask questions and explore any issue in greater depth.

Read more: 20 Bad Habits in the Workplace to Break

Receiving Constructive Feedback with an Open Mind

When receiving feedback, do your best to remain open-minded and listen to what the other person has to say. It can be tempting to become self-justifying and make excuses upon the receipt of criticisms, but maintaining a coachable attitude will help you get the most out of the conversation and gain valuable insights from it.

Here are a few tips on how to effectively handle feedback:

  • Take some time: Give yourself a moment to process the advice before responding. This prevents any knee-jerk reactions – as well as ensures that you’re replying in a thoughtful way.
  • Listen carefully: Closely pay attention to what is being said – while resisting the urge to interrupt the other person (even if you are not comfortable with their opinion). If possible, turn off your phone and other mobile devices to avoid distractions.
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to raise questions to fully understand the other party’s opinion. The more you ask, the better insights into the issue you gain – and the more informed decisions you should be able to make.
  • Show appreciation: Express gratitude for the feedback, as it demonstrates that you are open to constructive criticism and willing to learn from it. This, in turn, helps foster mutual trust and encourages further dialogues in the future.
  • Reflect on your performance: Take some time afterward to reflect on what was said and think about possible strategies for future improvements.
  • Take action: Once you’ve taken enough time for reflection, it’s time to act! Develop an action plan for how you can implement the feedback – and frequently monitor the progress to figure out hindering issues that must be resolved soon.

receiving feedback

By following the guidelines above, we contribute to creating a positive and productive work environment that promotes a culture of growth and development. In turn, this leads to greater success and satisfaction in your career, as well as improved relationships with your colleagues and superiors.

Read more: Soliciting Feedback – Key to a Better Workplace

Final Thoughts

Asking for and receiving feedback isn’t an easy task; yet, it is the cornerstone of a well-rounded employee-manager relationship, as well as an essential component of personal and professional growth. We hope that the strategies outlined in this article will help you become better equipped to embrace criticisms – and leverage them for improved performance in the future.

Other resources you might be interested in:

ITD Vietnam is part of ITD World – a top ranked provider of Talent & Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Training & Consulting services.

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