The ability to provide constructive feedback is a critical skill for managers, as illustrated below:

  • Susan’s manager told her he knew she had weak areas from day one, creating a significant dent in her self-esteem. Demotivated, she lost interest in her job and began looking for other opportunities.
  • Jim’s supervisor, on the other hand, said “Jim, I completely appreciate that you are working extra hours to help achieve our goals.  I am sure you will continue to collaborate to enable us to complete the project tomorrow. We would not be able to complete this without your support. Thank you!”

Successful supervisors and managers can provide constructive and specific feedback to their team members, which helps boost their morale and engagement levels. Negative and vague statements such as the one given to Susan can demotivate and discourage an employee leading to decreased productivity. Constructive feedback by its very definition has to be positive, specific, descriptive and action-oriented while refraining from bias, accusations, and ambiguity.  When delivered in the right manner, constructive feedback builds trust between employees and managers, leading to better engagement levels.

Tips for managers to provide constructive feedback

The following are some of the best practices tips for managers to help them provide constructive and specific feedback:

Build a culture of constructive feedback:

Success at work is synonymous with the culture of the workplace. Set the right culture tone by adopting constructive feedback into the company’s goals and objectives. There should be a set protocol of providing regular feedback with a predetermined set of metrics and measures that help in objective assessment. The HR policy should be well-aligned with the feedback system, and the onboarding process should explain how to receive or hand out constructive feedback.

Be precise:

Vague statements of “you are good” “some areas need improvement” can only confuse the employee even when they are positive. To be effective, the feedback has to be constructive and specific. For instance “In order to complete this project you will need to find out more about phase 4 and 5.”

Refrain from accusations:

While providing feedback, it is necessary to be factual and focus on the situation rather than accusing the individual. For example, if a temporary employee is late for work more than once, the manager can point out that “customers don’t like to be kept waiting” rather than saying “you are always late for work.” Refrain from giving your personal opinion and focus on the observed outcomes of an action.

Provide a clear direction:

The feedback should include actionable information on how the employee can improve in specific areas. For example, the manager can say “I have XYZ and to get ABC, you need to follow these steps.” An appraisal or feedback session should always end with a detailed action plan with specific goals that are clearly understood by both the manager as well as the employee.

Ensure face-to-face communication:

A feedback session can only be effective when carried out in person. Make sure the employee has a chance to respond or explain the actions. Tossing an email or discussing in front of others can be detrimental to the employee’s morale.