Giving and receiving constructive feedback is central to achieving positive change across a company. Given the sensitive nature of this kind of exchange, it helps to approach it with a plan and with confidence. In this article, we provide 5 tips for feeling more comfortable with giving constructive feedback to your employees and peers.

How to give constructive feedback. Article by Netigate.

1. Pay attention to the circumstances

It can be difficult to determine the best time to share constructive feedback. There are, however, approaches you can use to make it easier for both yourself and the person who will receive the information. A good foundation to stand on is when there is already a good feedback culture at the company. This will typically mean that employees are used to giving and receiving feedback and understand the benefits doing so.

It’s also essential to pay close attention to how you present your feedback. Choose to have the meeting in a place where you feel the employee will feel safe. This will help to create a better atmosphere for everyone involved. If you aren’t able to do this, there’s a greater risk that the feedback won’t be well received. Ultimately, giving constructive feedback is largely about how and under what circumstances it is given.

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2. The ‘I-message’

Plan your words well before you present your feedback to your employee. An I-message is the basis for your message to be perceived as friendly and not as a personal attack. Start from the self and craft your words accordingly: i.e. “I have seen the emails you have sent to me…” instead of saying they send far too many emails. Make sure to put the weight on the positive intention that the employee probably had with the behaviour.

3. The structure of constructive feedback

The feedback ladder is a model that is useful for better understanding the recipient’s reactions. The model consists of five stages:

  1. Reject
  2. Defend
  3. Explain
  4. Understand
  5. Change

In the first three stages, the recipient rejects the feedback, even if it’s constructive. Our aim is to get to step 5 because that is when change will take place and the recipient will be ready for the feedback they receive. Making constructive feedback easier to digest is about balance. If the feedback is of a negative nature, try to make your approach positive and encouraging. A positive outcome marked by understanding and change is more likely when the employee in question feels that you are providing the feedback to help them develop. Treat it as a problem-solving exercise where you both work together to achieve positive change.

Furthermore, you should be direct with what you want to achieve. Ask the employee how he or she views the feedback you have just provided.

4. Follow-up

It is of the utmost importance that you always follow-up on your feedback to ensure it has weight. In this way, the employee who has received the feedback will also feel prioritised. Feel free to schedule continuous meetings for feedback. Furthermore, it helps if you show that you are available for questions if employees are unsure about improvements or bringing about change.

5. Foster meaningful change

Feedback is the key to creating positive change. Everyone, regardless of position, needs input to be able to develop both professionally and on a personal level. Giving constructive feedback is a balancing act on several levels: it should not be given too quickly and be well thought out in order to achieve the change that is intended.

No matter what your company’s feedback culture looks like, it’s important to nurture good dialogues with your employees. You can do an employee survey as a first step, for instance, to give you a general overview of how your employees feel at work. This will then provide a useful springboard for more in-depth discussions.

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