Mastering the art of constructive feedback at the workplace

Mastering the art of constructive feedback at the workplace

We seek and give feedback every day in our lives. Mastering the art of constructive feedback at the workplace is as crucial as it determines the success or failure of a project or initiative. 

Even in an organization, feedback plays a major role as it helps to detect performance gaps, and also focuses on employees’ behaviors to match the organization’s goals. Hence, feedback is crucial to an individual’s as well as an organization’s performance.

Most people think that giving and receiving feedback is a simple process, only consisting of saying ‘great job’ or ‘thank you’. But the art of feedback is much more complex and structured than that. 

There are actually three kinds of feedback: positive, negative, and constructive feedback.

Positive feedback applies to situations when employees perform well and the feedback includes commendations for how well the employees performed. 

Negative feedback applies to situations when feedback focuses on what went wrong, without necessarily including how it can be made better. 

Constructive feedback can highlight the mistakes the person made while also offering possible solutions that can help them improve and fix their errors.

Research pointed out that negative feedback tends to negatively impact employees’ performance. On the other hand, while positive feedback does improve performance by building a better sense of belongingness within the employee, it has its limits. Using constructive feedback is a better method which not only reinforces positive behavior, but also corrects any negative performance results without hurting the feelings of employees. Hence, it is the most desired feedback method used by any manager.

How to give constructive feedback? 

This can be a great challenge for people, especially when the receiver does not have a good rapport with the speaker. To learn how to give constructive feedback, try the following steps: 

  1. Gather all the information:

The first step includes gathering the information before actually giving feedback to the other person. This includes checking the accuracy of the information, listing the information of feedback while making sure they are focusing on facts and behaviors with emotions. 

Being direct and specific about the feedback also helps to communicate the feedback. Thus, it could be helpful to first build clarity regarding the issue yourself before you list out the direct feedback you need to give the other person.

Write down a few explanations or examples of the issue or why this issue needs to be addressed to prepare.

  1. Ask when you can communicate the feedback: 

Good feedback at the wrong time can diminish the purpose of feedback, therefore, asking when the other person is comfortable for the specific feedback is important. Also, being courteous by asking when they are available for feedback communicates that you \respect their time and space, thus helping build a positive rapport. 

Wherever you decide to talk, try to make sure that it is in a private space where you can have an open and honest conversation without worrying about others overhearing you.

  1. Focus on the future:

The core component of constructive criticism is that it is solution-oriented and focuses on the future. Make sure the feedback you give includes certain strategies that can help improve performance or desired behavior in the future. 

Try asking yourself, “So what could be a few possible solutions for this issue”? Or “How should this person handle this situation if it was going to occur again”?.

And to communicate these strategies or possible solutions, try using positive phrases instead of strong phrases such as, “Have you considered…..” or “Maybe you can try ……” .

  1. Communicate the feedback and follow up: 

During the communication phase of the feedback, it’s crucial to focus on body language as well as the tone of the voice to be as calm and helpful to the other person rather than communicating dominance. 

You can also clarify any doubts, opinions, or criticisms of the other person by asking the following questions from them:

  • What do you feel about the feedback I just gave you?
  • What do you think about the issue I raised in the feedback?
  • What other possible solution do you think better fit for this issue we just discussed?

Finally, thank the other person and agree on a date and time for the follow-up. 

These steps also help in receiving feedback, where the most crucial thing an employee needs to see is to check if the feedback actually includes  possible solutions. As negative feedback usually leads to a toxic environment, it’s better to avoid pure criticism without critique.  

Remember, feedback is essential for individual and organization growth as it provides a factual picture of what the employee is expected to do and how much they are delivering. And to give and receive effective feedback, it’s necessary to have a solution-oriented approach that helps to open the window of growth and work in the feedback.

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