5 Best Practices for Delivering Constructive Feedback

female employer giving costructive feedbackr and 5 best practices

The other day, I was struck by an article I saw in The Wall Street Journal. As someone who has worked in the employee engagement, recognition, and safety industry for the last 25 years, seeing a title like The Rare Workers Who Thrive on Negative Feedback struck a chord with me.

It got me thinking about why so many companies today struggle to deliver quality feedback to their employees. Today’s article will take a closer look at why “negative” feedback is so important, as well as five ways you can make the greatest possible impact when communicating with your employees.

The importance of so-called “negative” feedback

I believe The Journal was looking to increase clicks by using the phrase “negative feedback.” While this provocative language will likely boost traffic (it certainly worked on me), I don’t believe it’s an accurate description of something that employees would thrive on. The examples and case studies referenced in the article would suggest I’m right.

So, to be more transparent about what we’re discussing, let’s call it what it is – “constructive criticism.” By offering an employee constructive criticism, you can help them grow both professionally and personally. Because let’s face it, there will be times when a particular criticism overlaps.

Employees who welcome constructive criticism, such as those rare breeds highlighted in the article, are the over-achievers. They “see criticism as a tool...rather than a setback.” But they will likely be in the minority.

This is why it’s incredibly important you follow best practices when delivering this form of feedback. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating and disengaging your workforce, which can have a dire impact on your company’s bottom line.

When correctly delivered, however, constructive criticism can help your employees evolve, boost employee engagement efforts, and significantly improve the profits and productivity levels at your organization.

Here are five ways you can turn this dream scenario into a reality!

How to deliver constructive feedback

Tip 1 – Timing is everything 

The timing of your constructive feedback will help dictate how it is interpreted by your employees, as well as the impact it will have.

Many studies  suggest that you do not provide in-depth feedback immediately. You should correct the issue as it occurs, but for optimal efficiency, you should wait a few hours or so before having a deeper conversation. This allows you to better control any anger you might be feeling, and it helps your employee be more receptive to feedback.

The time of day you approach your employee is also important. Usually, it works best to offer feedback in the mornings. That’s because, as the day progresses, employees and managers alike lose the capacity for self-control and self-regulation. When this occurs, parties tend to become either entirely despondent or easily-angered.

Neither scenario offers a good outcome.

Tip 2 – Be positive and empathetic

Before approaching an employee with constructive criticism, stop for a moment and think about a time you received criticism. You’ll likely remember a time when a particular criticism hurt you.  In fact, it may still even cause you a bit of pain to think about. That’s why it’s incredibly important you put yourself in your employee’s place.

Prior to offering any criticism, I recommend opening with a similar mistake you made in the past. This tip, which comes from one of my all-time favorite books, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” serves multiple purposes.

Here are three of the most significant:

  1. It allows the employee to be more receptive to your advice
  2. It signifies that you have faith in their ability to perform
  3. It helps illustrate that we all make mistakes from time to time

Tip 3 - Offer ongoing feedback

For feedback to be truly effective, it must occur on an ongoing basis. The days of once-a-year performance reviews are dead, and I couldn’t be happier. These annual reviews, alone, have never worked — and they are particularly ineffective when it comes to millennials, who prefer constant feedback.

Tip 4 — Offer positive feedback as well 

In addition to evaluating when you’re offering feedback, you should also analyze the type of feedback you’re providing. If you only speak with your employees when there’s a problem, you’re setting them – and YOURSELF – up for failure.

Be certain to praise your employees for a job well done!

Tip 5 – Create a Culture of Recognition

Finally, for constructive criticism to have a lasting impact, you must create a Culture of Recognition at your organization. When your employees feel safe, have friends at work, and are engaged at the job at hand, they actually seek out “constructive feedback” because they understand it helps them learn and grow.

However, without a Culture of Recognition in place, the feedback you offer will likely fall on deaf ears.

To learn more about how you can create this environment at your business, you can download our complimentary resource, Creating a Total Recognition Checklist. If you need immediate assistance, or you have a question you think we can help you answer, reach out!

Total Recognition Checklist  

Topics: Employee Engagement, feedback, Communication

Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, CSM

About the Author
Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, CSM

CEO & CFO
Mr. Ross, a certified public accountant, joined the C.A. Short Company as its controller in June 1993 and was named Chief Financial Officer in November 1996. From there, Jeff was promoted to President and Chief Financial Officer, and in 2017, was appointed CEO. Before joining C.A. Short Company, Ross was employed as an accountant by Hausser + Taylor, a large public accounting and consulting firm. Jeff presently serves on the Board of Directors of 2XSalt Ministries, Charlotte, NC and is a member of North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Ross graduated from The Ohio State University with Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1989.

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