A nod of the head, a knowing wink of the eye, and a simple “way to go” are ways a conscientious leader shows approval. Such habits are welcomed by most employees. But, they may not be enough. Most managers need to pursue these 10 ways to give constructive feedback in the workplace.
In its 2009 study, Gallup® research reports:
- 37% of workers feel their managers stress their strengths.
- 11% felts managers stressed their weaknesses.
- 25% felt totally ignored.
As important is the fact that the degree of employee engagement increases with the incidence of constructive feedback.
What constructive feedback looks like:
Constructive feedback is criticism in the best sense of the word. It informs, explains, coaches, encourages, and so on. At best, feedback is a reciprocal conversation, an exchange aimed at fixing, improving, or devising a solution.
Under legacy management, feedback is given annually in a performance assessment. It is usually limited to a checklist reflecting the manager’s perception. The manager’s perception is naturally limited to recent performance issues. It is simply more likely that the manager will remember the negative event of a month prior rather than the strong positive outcome of six months before.
However, best practices provide constant timely feedback with tools like BizMerlin’s Instant Feedback. Constructive feedback thanks employees for jobs well done. It shows appreciation for employee input and solutions. It meets with employees regarding the nature of their work function and needs to redefine the function and/or re-evaluate its performance goals. It recognizes individual and team success. Writing for BizMerlin, Megha says, “Expressing admiration and appreciation of someone’s work well done is an effective way of motivating and inspiring individuals to perform even better.”
10 ways to give constructive feedback in the workplace:
- Manage the situation: Positive feedback can almost always be given in public. If privacy is important to the employee or the subject matter, you can arrange to meet outside the workspace. Still, the occasion should occur naturally and without undue attention. Above all, it should respect the employee or team.
- Make it fun: With enough practice, you can make feedback a positive experience. When employees recognize that your feedback is habitually positive in manner and content, they warm to the occasion and welcome your input. They appreciate your engagement and read it as respectful.
- Focus on work: Constructive feedback focuses on specific work issues – not the person. It does not say, “I like you.” It does say, “I like how you did that.” Identify the performance and link it to the outcome. You might say, “I appreciate the way you lead the process discussion at the team meeting. I think that tweak in the system made the difference in this week’s results.”
- Be objective: Where there are facts and figures, they support your observations. They also make it easier to connect the specific performance with the specific outcome. BizMerlin’s Wall of Fame publishes your observations for sharing and modeling the desired behavior.
- Avoid needs: When the work requires correction or redirection, you do not want to identify the employee’s “needs to do.” This somehow implies that the employee failed to do something or is lacking in something. It is a more constructive experience when you say, “You will find it easier to do it this way” or “Try doing it this way, and let me know if it is more comfortable.”
- Sandwich it: Things go better when you begin with positives. One recommendation is to avoid any negative observation until you have given three positive remarks about employee strengths and potential. The feedback comes next acknowledging a specific achievement or an option to improve. And, the session ends with a reiteration and reaffirmation of the employee’s strengths.
- Offer options: Your feedback is also an occasion to initiate the employee’s self-assessment. If you can offer the employee options to improve, correct, innovate, revise, revalue, or repeat. Asking them to choose an option and explain their decision respects their input and makes them partners in the relationship. BizMerlin’s Resource Allocation Optimization helps you manage and forecast talent needs based on your reporting such employee conversations.
- Avoid threats: Constructive feedback is not the same as disciplinary action or corrective action. Discipline is a distinct and separate event. No threat should hover over the feedback session. The focus should remain on how the current performance is affecting outcomes and how an alternative method would improve those outcomes.
- Make it doable: Any suggested alternative behavior or outcome must be reasonably achievable. It must be clear what the employee has to do and how it will be measured. That might require you to offer one means to one employee and another to a different employee.
- Listen constructively: Active listening asks you to hold eye-to-eye contact, to nod attentively, to repeat or reiterate what the employee says, and to summarize what you have heard. It shows respect when you take in the employee remarks, and it pleases them when you promise to resolve their concerns or integrate their input.
Criticism is a negative act by nature. Making it “constructive” is really a matter of structuring a self-discovery event for the employee. Done right, it strengthens relationships and improves outcomes. Well done, it coaches, mentors, and models behavior. Properly done, it builds on the kinds of specifics and details secured, retained, and integrated on a platform like BizMerlin. It makes things easy with tools that define goals and set targets. It remembers things managers tend to forget. It posts recognition and lets employees check-in at will. It tracks progress and coaches self-improvement. It solves your management problem with the data you need to support these 10 ways to give constructive feedback in the workplace.