Providing Constructive Feedback

It doesn’t matter what your position, role, level, or industry, at some point in your career, you’ll most likely need to know how to give constructive feedback at work.

This will certainly be true if you manage a team, you might also be called to give this type of feedback to peers or team members when working on projects with multiple contributors. Keep in mind that providing constructive criticism can be easier said than done – it’s something that many people find challenging, and can be tricky to do well. Here are some of the top ways to provide constructive feedback.

Build Trust – Having a baseline of trust will help set the tone of your future conversations. This will both help you deliver your feedback, and help the other person accept it and put your suggestions to use. It can be difficult to accept feedback from someone you do not trust.

Be Specific – One of the best ways to give constructive feedback is to focus on specifics. Telling someone that their work needs improvement, but not giving details on what exactly is lacking isn’t helpful to anyone. The person won’t know what you’re looking for, so they’ll be frustrated and you most likely will not get the results you hoped for. When providing positive feedback, provide specifics. For example, instead of just saying “great job” or “nice work,” give a meaningful compliment that shows that you really took the time to observe their work and that you truly appreciate their contribution.

In Person – Whenever possible, it is always better to deliver constructive criticism in person during private meetings rather than via email, a direct messaging application, or phone. All of these technologies, while useful in other situations, are much more open to misinterpretation, because they eliminate important context such as vocal tone, body language, and emotional inflection like humor or concern.

It’s Not Personal – When giving constructive criticism, it’s important to remember to distinguish a person from their actions. If it feels like a personal attack, the individual will be more likely to shut down and lose trust in you than to listen to what you have to say.

Be Consistent – When leading a team over a longer period of time, by making feedback a regular part of your ongoing conversations and meetings will go a long way. That means that you will both be on the same page in terms of expectations and performance, and that when something more significant comes up performance-wise, you’ll be better prepared to deliver the necessary feedback, and they’ll be better prepared to receive it.

Timely – Don’t let days or weeks pass by before you give someone feedback on their work, especially when it comes to a specific project. You want the work to be fresh in both their minds and yours, so that the conversation will be relevant and actionable.