How You Can Give Constructive Feedback That Gets the Best Results

To customers, your employees are the face of your business. What they do directly reflects on your brand. So it’s essential to monitor their performance and provide feedback, both good and bad. The key is to do it in a way that supports the work to get the best results. Here are some tips to provide constructive feedback that can address performance concerns.

What Makes Feedback Constructive?

Feedback is a significant part of the communication cycle. It’s where you get the information you need to evaluate how you’re doing and make any corrections. Without it, you’d have to rely on your perceptions, which may not match reality.

The goal of constructive feedback is to support, not punish, employees. It’s an honest view of their performance, both positive and negative. You want them to keep doing the good things and course correct in areas where they fall short. When done correctly, constructive feedback can lead to solutions that help employees grow in their job. And you get peak performance in return.

4 Constructive Tips

1. Concentrate on the behavior, not the person.

It’s easy for people to become defensive when given negative feedback. That’s why it’s important to center your comments on what you observe and its impact, not on them personally.

Here’s where the words you say count. Notice how the use of “I” and “you” in these examples create very different impressions.

  • I have noticed some errors when you close out the register at night. It’s causing my daily accounting record to be off.” The wording of this phrase focuses on the behavior and its impact. It leaves the door open to find a solution. 
  • You keep making careless errors when you close out.” The wording of this phrase zeros in on the person. It tends to close the door, and the employee puts up a defensive wall. 

2. Select the right place.

In addition to what you say, it’s also important to be aware of where you say it. There are advantages to giving positive feedback in public places. Complimenting an employee in front of others can give added recognition to the accomplishment. It also establishes a mile marker for other employees to follow. But be careful; not all employees like public praise.

On the other hand, save corrective feedback for one-on-one settings, as may be more appropriately delivered in this environment. Face-to-face meetings help lower the temperature so you can have a dialogue. The employee can ask questions, and you can provide more detail. It creates the space needed to work on solutions together.

3. Be specific (it will lead a path to the solution).

Telling an employee “you’re not a team player” isn’t very helpful. It doesn’t provide enough information for them to improve. That’s why it’s critical to be specific. Then you can chart a path for improvement.

Here’s an example: “I’ve noticed you tend to finish restocking your shelves first while our new person is still struggling on his own.” This feedback statement provides a specific example of when better teamwork is needed. It can lead to a discussion of how the employee could take on a mentorship role with the newbie. The solution is corrective and could be motivating for your veteran staff to take on this new responsibility.

4. Avoid serving up the feedback sandwich.

Some management theorists suggest you use the sandwich approach to feedback—start with a slice of positive feedback, add a layer of negative feedback, and top it off with another piece of positive feedback. While some managers can pull this off, most fall short. Either the employee focuses on the positive and ignores the negative. Or they’re wise to this approach and don’t hear the positive, knowing the other shoe is about to drop.

Don’t be afraid to lead with something negative, especially if it’s hurting your business. Employees want to do better. A Harvard Business Review study reports that 57% of employees surveyed prefer corrective feedback over straight praise. And 92% agreed that negative feedback, when given appropriately, improved their performance.

Constructive feedback is an essential tool to ensure employees can give their best. Start with these tips to deliver feedback that gets results.

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