How to give constructive feedback

Providing constructive feedback is essential to a company that is constantly trying to grow and improve. That being said, there are certain rules to follow while giving feedback to make sure you get your message across while ensuring that it is not taken the wrong way.

Don’t turn it into an evaluation. Make sound observations instead. Describe what you are noticing going on as opposed to making accusations. Avoid generalizing someone’s behavior or making drastic exaggerations of the employee’s actions.

Do be specific. Point out explicit situations that you have observed and how exactly it affected other members in the office. Describing people’s traits to them will only go so far, let them know exactly what they’re doing and how they act.

Don’t make assumptions. Sometime it’s tough to tell what’s really going on, so allow the employee to tell his side of the story. Giving feedback isn’t just a one-way street; allow it to be a conversation.

Do offer advice on how to get better. The whole point of giving constructive feedback is to improve the situation. Allow the person receiving feedback to offer suggestions of his own as well.

Don’t offer feedback at an inopportune time. While you usually want to discuss a negative situation soon after it occurs, people normally need a cooling off period before they can fully reflect on it. Moreover, wait until you can be in a comfortable environment that’s just you and them. There’s no need to embarrass an employee in front of his coworkers to prove a point.

Do focus on the facts, not the attitude. Only talk about the actions that an employee does, not what you believe they are. People can alter their certain actions, but it is tough to change personality traits.

Do be goal-oriented. What is the purpose behind giving this feedback? Always remember that it is designed to be constructive, so there should be some clear goals in mind before diving in.

Do allow them to explain. As stated earlier, feedback is most constructive in the form of a conversation. Perhaps there’s something going on behind the scenes that you have overlooked, or a simple explanation that could clear everything up. And if not, allow them to try anyways. People like to feel like their voice is being heard.

Don’t just focus on the negative. Start and end the meeting on an optimistic note. There have to be a number of qualities that you like about the employee; otherwise you probably wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. The entire scope of the feedback shouldn’t be focused on purely negative aspects. In fact, the general feeling should be optimistic because constructive feedback should allow the person to become a better employee and make your company run more smoothly.

Do come to a mutual agreement. Feedback is only effective if the employee understands and agrees with what you are trying to communicate with them. Make sure they are fully aware of what you are trying to tell them. Ask them to summarize the situation for you. For instance, if the employee had been messing up the procedure to fill out his expense report then ask him to quickly go through the steps of that procedure.

Do follow up. What good is feedback that is never thought of or talked about again? End the feedback discussion with a clear plan of action for the employee to follow to improve the problem. Nevertheless, understand that there could be consequences of that feedback and be prepared to deal with those.

Don’t demand change. Giving ultimatums along with feedback is not very constructive. Instead, describe the impact that negative actions have on the office as a whole. For instance, if an employee routinely fills out reports late, discuss how the entire process of getting something down is slowed up rather than angrily saying that they always turn things in late. People will be more likely to want to help if you show them the impact of their actions.

Do pay attention to your body language and make eye contact. It is more likely that both of you will focus on the situation at hand if you are looking directly at each other. If you seem disinterested in the conversation, then most likely the employee will too.

Don’t overwhelm them. Focus on ore or two points that you’re trying to get across. It may seem easier to use the time already set aside for feedback to list off the things that need work. However, this is not a very effective practice. It’s a lot easier for an employee to work on one or two things at a time than have to think about everything that they’re doing wrong.

Do provide time for them to give a self-assessment. There’s no sense telling an employee something he already knows. It’s possible he’s already started to work on a solution to the problem you are trying to discuss.

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