Constructive feedback is critical for career growth, and those who are serious about self-improvement welcome it with open minds. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback, as opposed to the 43% that would rather get praise and recognition. The key for leaders is understanding how to give constructive feedback to employees to ensure it is received as helpful and not disparaging. Read on to learn more, but before we talk about constructive feedback examples, we need to look at what it is and how it benefits both the employee and employer.

Providing constructive feedback is good for business

Businesses succeed when employees are productive and perform at their best. To do that, employees need their managers to help guide their performance and career growth through constructive feedback. According to HR Central, constructive feedback is vital to an employee’s development. It clarifies expectations, helps people learn from mistakes, and builds confidence.

Employees who receive consistent and timely constructive feedback grow into strong contributors and leaders in the workplace, but the message must be delivered correctly.

Constructive vs. destructive feedback

In giving constructive feedback to an employee, there must be positive intent. A negative attitude will only serve to make the recipient defensive. What could be otherwise valuable feedback becomes a verbal assault or just nitpicking.

No one benefits from disparaging attacks on an employee. Certainly not the business.

A series of studies on the negative effects of destructive feedback, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, showed that people who received inconsiderate, negative criticism without specifics reported greater anger and tension, set lower goals for themselves, reported lower self-efficacy, and blamed conflicts on the criticism.

How to give constructive feedback

Constructive feedback is given in a timely manner when it’s most relevant. Managers who keep a list of things to point out during mid-year or annual reviews are not making the most of the opportunity to build a strong workforce. Plus, they are allowing a problem to perhaps continue for months.

Of course, timeliness matters for positive feedback as well. If someone does something particularly well or comes up with an innovative idea, don’t wait until their year-end review to mention it. Both constructive feedback and praise should be measured out regularly and in a spirit of good intent. The objective is to help the employee grow.

Destructive and constructive feedback examples

The following are examples of both destructive and constructive feedback. Pay attention to destructive examples that are belittling, accusatory, and emotional. These things only serve to harm. The alternative constructive examples serve to have an unemotional conversation that doesn’t put the recipient on the defensive and unable to grow.

1. Destructive: You don’t seem to know how to manage a team. I’ve had a complaint that they don’t share information and are only interested in their own KPIs, while everyone else is struggling.

Constructive: I know your team is very dedicated to their work and achieving their goals. You’ve done a good job of motivating them. However, it would be helpful to the business if they made a greater effort to collaborate with other teams and share information.

2. Destructive: You never speak up at meetings! What’s the use of having an expert on staff if you’re not going to talk?

Constructive: I’m glad to hear you’ve come up with a solution for the problem discussed at the meeting this morning. Why didn’t you share it then? You have to be willing to speak up. If you don’t have faith in your solutions, no one else will.

3. Destructive: We were late on our deadline and it’s your fault! I had to message you multiple times before you responded yesterday. This will not happen again!

Constructive: This project we’re on has some critical deadlines and every member of the team needs to be responsive to keep things moving. Not being able to get a response from you yesterday for more than two hours meant that everyone was held up. And, I worried something was wrong. If you’re not going to be able to respond during a critical time, you need to let me know.

4. Destructive: Your work is not acceptable. It’s as if you don’t care how you’re making us look. What’s wrong with you?

Constructive: I’ve noticed the work you’ve turned in lately is not up to your usual standards. If something’s wrong or you need help, you need to talk to me about it. What’s going on?

The delivery of constructive feedback may not always be script-perfect, but as long as it’s done with good intent and in a calm, non-accusatory manner, it can open doors for conversations that strengthen an employee’s loyalty and help them grow.

Feedback is a two-way street

Providing constructive feedback to employees is critical, but don’t forget it’s just as important for the success of a business to allow employees to give feedback to management. Leveraging focus groups, one on one conversations, and using employee surveys are some of the most common ways to collect feedback.

However, you can build giving constructive feedback into the organisation’s DNA by making it a standard course of action throughout the organisation. Opportunities to gather feedback include:

  • Spend a couple of minutes after a department meeting, and ask attendees to rate the meeting, and then explain why they didn’t give it the highest rating. This exercise is especially useful for improving meetings that occur consistently, such as departmental or team meetings.
  • Survey project teams post-project. An anonymous survey can shed invaluable insight upon the quality of project communication, clarity of goals and KPIs, leadership, collaboration, and expression of the organisation’s values. Done consistently, you’ll find opportunities to improve project processes.
  • Another great opportunity to ask for focused feedback consistently is your new hire onboarding program. Surveying new hires and asking for their feedback post-induction will help improve onboarding, leading to improved engagement and even retention.

Your organisation will grow stronger from a constructive feedback loop, and not just from the improvements gained. As your employees and managers become more comfortable with giving and receiving constructive feedback, the feedback loop they create will become a powerful force within your organisation.