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A Comprehensive Guide to Constructive Feedback [2024]

August 24, 2021
7 Min Read
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Table of Contents:

What is constructive feedback?

Just like feedback, constructive feedback is comprised of a team member’s overall performance and can be used to build (cough, cough construct) skills and behaviors to make them successful in their career. Constructive feedback can come in two approaches:

  • Positive feedback is easier for leaders to give because it’s easier to praise and celebrate peers for their work. However, this also makes it easy to grow complacent as opposed to pushing for improvement when giving constructive feedback. 
  • Negative feedback is oftentimes difficult to address. It’s natural for people to put off difficult conversations or to be in confrontational situations. 

It’s important to emphasize that negative feedback isn’t always destructive feedback. Destructive feedback happens when the feedback is accusatory, judgemental, and leaves the individual attacked than helped.

Depending on which route you take when it comes to constructive feedback, focus on how you can deliver actionable items instead of aimless criticism. Think about these ideas when compiling your feedback:

  • Delivery. To ensure that your feedback doesn’t come off as subjective, accusatory, and personal, focus on your delivery. Instead of “you” statements, try using “us” and “we” statements. For example, change “You need to be more responsive.” to, “Let’s come up with an action plan to see how we can better our communication.”
  • Objectivity. The most important part of constructive feedback is basing it on observations and facts. There’s no room for opinions. Be specific, concise, provide examples, and tailor the feedback to the area of improvement.

Why is constructive feedback important?

Whether you’re in a leadership position or not, constructive feedback is important for every part of your career. And it’s this constant feedback that will help you develop the professional and personal skills to help you achieve your goals. When it comes to your career, here are a few ways constructive feedback can leave an imprint:

  • Constructive feedback boosts professional development. If you receive actionable, specific, and timely feedback from your peers or leadership, this is impactful to your professional development. Since you’re able to implement the feedback right away, it’s easier to make that progression.
  • Constructive feedback deepens rapport. When feedback becomes a ritual among an organization and is constantly practiced, it encourages people to be honest and communicative. Over time, your team’s culture, trust, and transparency will strengthen.
  • Constructive feedback addresses expectations. Regular feedback eliminates the guesswork from what is expected, from the employee and the manager. It opens up a conversation to improve the overall employee-manager relationship and sets clear expectations on both sides.

How to give constructive feedback

According to a study called “The Power of Feedback,” by the University of Auckland, researchers found that supplying people with specific information about what they are doing right or wrong is vital to personal and professional development. 

With that being said, how you give constructive feedback matters. Here’s a framework to help ensure that the feedback given prompts the best results:

  1. Identify the specific areas for constructive feedback
  2. Describe what you have observed and stick to the facts
  3. Walkthrough your reaction to the observation without being accusatory
  4. Allow your peer to respond and explain their perspective
  5. Offer concrete suggestions and ideas on how to improve
  6. Set up a follow-up meeting to see progress and discuss any roadblocks
  7. Continue to provide support and encouragement

What’s not constructive feedback 

Now that we’ve guided you to know how to give constructive feedback, here’s a list of what NOT to do when giving your peers constructive feedback.

  • Sugarcoating negative feedback
  • Stating what you’re unhappy about without offering clear expectations
  • Giving only positive feedback 
  • Mistaking valid reasons for excuses
  • Using judgmental or shaming language 
  • Delivering a long preamble before giving the negative feedback

Difference between constructive feedback and criticism

If you want to give great feedback, the kind that’s accepted, appreciated, and taken to heart, then you have to leave the Negative Nancys behind. They don’t provide insightful feedback at all, they criticize. And we know how counter-productive criticism is. But feedback, on the other hand, is the breakfast of champions. 

Feedback can be given in three ways: Through constructive feedback, recognition and praise, and criticism. When it comes to helping your peers achieve success, don’t fall into the trap of focusing on just positive feedback and criticism. According to Benedictine University, here’s the difference between constructive criticism and feedback:

  • Criticism is focused on what we don’t want; feedback is focused on what we want.
  • Criticism is focused on the past; feedback is focused on the future.
  • Criticism is focused on weakness; feedback helps to build up strengths.
  • Criticism says, “You are the problem.” Feedback says, “We can make this better.”
  • Criticism deflates; feedback inspires.

Constructive feedback examples

Whether it’s peer-to-peer, employee, or 360-degree feedback, there’s a way to approach your team members. You can use the following workplace scenarios and examples to guide you when navigating tricky work situations and providing constructive feedback.

Scenario 1. 

Jamie has been on your team for a year now. Lately, she seems disengaged and not motivated to work or complete her tasks.

Approach: “I have noticed that you don’t seem as motivated to do work as you usually do. I wanted to check in to see how you’re doing. If there are reasons why you feel this, I would love to talk with you about it and come up with an action plan.”

Scenario 2. 

Vinay has been constantly showing up late for work.

Approach: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been arriving to work later than usual. I would like you to arrive on time please because it impacts our team and deliverables. What do you think?” 

Scenario 3.

Victoria has recently switched her leadership approach to be less involved.

Approach: “I noticed that you’ve adopted a new back-seat leadership approach and stepped back from some responsibilities that you used to do. To be honest and straightforward, it makes me feel like you haven’t put your best foot forward. What can I do to better support you and address your concerns.”

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