Boss Lady

How to give constructive feedback


The art of being manager has evolved. Management is no longer about domination, pulling rank, and creative cursing: rather, today’s manager knows that to get the most from their crew, as individuals and as a team, a meaningful atmosphere of collective trust is vital. However, such good intentions may be one thing, but the techniques required to achieve it involve a lot of research, learning and practise. There are few areas of your job where this will be less complex, nor more filled with opportunity, than when it comes to giving constructive feedback.

There are some basic traits that will help you get a long way before you’ve even started, and while some are born with high emotional intelligence, there is no reason why others cannot develop these traits. Namely, you need to be thinking about empathy, patience and your listening skills. Hold these principles close to your heart whenever you find yourself in a feedback scenario, and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

The good news is that there are specific approaches you can start applying today that will help you develop your soft skills whilst building trust with your team:

1. Do not rush into constructive feedback

If you identify a situation which needs addressing, by all means ensure the damage is plugged as soon as possible, but do your best to leave a moment of calm before discussing and remedying the situation with the colleague who is at fault.

This gap of time is valuable to ensure that both parties can cool off, but more so it gives you a chance to properly appraise the situation and consider how to approach it. Think about why your employee has made this mistake or their quality of work is not up to scratch, and about how it specifically affects you and your business.

2. Hold the meeting in a neutral ground

By now, you’re ready to approach this meeting with a broader perspective of its purpose and true scope. It’s very important that the meeting is held in private, and potentially also on neutral ground as the foreboding feeling of being called in to “the Principal’s office” should really be left at school.

3. Start by discussing successes and then move onto a clear picture of what you want to talk about

Let your employee know how and why you value them, but get quickly to the point so that you both know clearly what the conversation is to be about. Tell them about the conclusions you came to in your preparation: what the problem is, and why it is a problem; and do so without making reference to the offender’s personality.

4. Invite them to share their point of view

This is where it becomes constructive. Now you stand back and ask your employee what their point of view is. Maybe there is an issue you’re unaware of (in the office or at home) that is the source, and this is your chance to find out or at least pick up on it.

Always ask your employee how they suggest the problem can be remedied before you give your own ideas, and listen carefully without interrupting. In this way, a dialogue is opened up, trust is established – and solutions are created by the two of you rather than enforced by you, the boss.

Things are looking better already. However, the constructive feedback process is not just about this meeting, but about the atmosphere that such meetings cultivate.

You will more ideas on how to build on these foundations in the infographic below, which separates the feedback process into a series of tasks and interactions. The trust you invest here will pay back dividends as your relationship with your employee and the rest of your team develops subsequently to a truly constructive feedback meeting.

infographic feedback


About Marilyn Vinchy

Marilyn Vinchy is a freelance writer and HR specialist. She works for several marketing and public relations agencies, supporting their content teams. She writes about leadership, careers and personal development, and has a knack for productivity and time management techniques. You’ll find her on Twitter here, and you can also visit her blog.

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  1. Pingback: How To Give Constructive Feedback – Marilyn Writes

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