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How to Give Constructive Feedback That Works

by South University, Online Programs
October 28, 2014

Are you currently a manager or working your way toward that much coveted office? A big part of being a leader and manager is providing feedback that helps those around you to grow and succeed. Yet offering constructive feedback that proves productive is a fine art—and one that takes practice. No one likes to feel attacked or criticized, and yet workplaces are environments that require constant feedback and evaluation. Whether you’re conducting performance reviews or general assessments, it's vital to practice positive delivery techniques that motivate rather than discourage.

thumbs up and thumbs down

Don't Negate Praise with the Word "But"

You might use the most reassuring compliments before this dangerous word, but the person will only hear the words following it. In order to make feedback more effective, separate praise from criticism. If someone is doing something well, state that wholeheartedly, not as a precursor to criticism. Doing so will allow for the complimentary words to carry more weight and will make the overall conversation feel more balanced.

Prepare Your Words

Solid preparation can prove the difference between a so-so conversation and one that inspires change and growth. Prior to vocalizing any concerns or suggestions, take the time to brainstorm a general outline of important points. Positive wording is the ideal way to avoid alienating an employee. "There's opportunity for you to grow as an excellent public speaker" is a far better statement than, "You need to work on your public speaking skills."

A surefire way to incite defensiveness from an employee is to use generalizations. Rather than saying someone is always late or never available, focus on specific incidents, and set encouraging goals to remedy problem behaviors. For instance, if an employee is routinely reporting back from lunch ten minutes late, focus on the dates of these incidents, ask for feedback from the employee on this issue and brainstorm ideas together that might help with time management.

Create a Conversation, Not a Lecture

Sometimes during evaluations or meetings, the conversation can become unintentionally one-sided. Allow the person(s) on the receiving end of the feedback to participate in the conversation as more than just an idle listener. Invite him or her to pose questions, clarify given examples and express any hesitations or barriers that might exist. Asking questions to the receiver also encourages a dialogue and makes the overall experience feel more equal.

Cater to Individual Motivational Styles

Each person is motivated in different ways. Some love praise, while others won't change unless they're given a form of competition. Instead of guessing what someone's individual preference is, ask him or her for feedback. Several assessments measure motivation style preference, and the results are often surprising. Understanding and utilizing motivational techniques is a highly constructive way of getting desired results.

When these guidelines are followed, feedback discussions and formal performance reviews can be a much smoother, productive process.

Tags: communication business business administration motivation leadership

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