Constructive feedback

Develop and maintain Learning Culture

In this workbook, we put together tips and exercises to help you develop your organisation’s learning culture.

The aim of this article is to provide you with a clear idea of what constructive feedback is and how it fits into the workplace.

Constructive feedback is a useful tool that managers and employees can engage in to improve the standard of work. There is a right way to give good constructive feedback which you will learn by the end of this page.

Discover:

By engaging your employees with constructive feedback you create an atmosphere that nurtures support and growth.

Proper feedback has a knock-on effect on loyalty, work ethic, performance, and growth for individuals and teams.

Feedback can be given in multiple ways so take a look at our guide “types of feedback.” You can learn how to take negative feedback and turn it into engaging positive feedforward.

Employees respond better to constructive and positive feedback rather than negative feedback which can make them feel unappreciated and under-supported.

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is the type of feedback aimed at achieving a positive outcome by providing someone with comments, advice, or suggestions that are useful for their work or their future.

The outcome can be faster processes, improving behaviors, identifying weaknesses, or providing new perspectives.

The feedback can be given in different forms; both praise and criticism can play a role in constructive feedback.

Good constructive feedback should focus on the work rather than being a personal negative attack against an individual.

Let’s take a look at how praise and criticism work:

Praise

Praise is where you show appreciation to your employees for the work they have done.

If an employee has done exemplary work or gone above and beyond to help someone, a thank you and congratulations can go a long way.

By acknowledging their work and showing your appreciation you can help to reinforce these positive behaviors.

Additionally, you can use praise as part of a larger feedback session. By highlighting the things an employee does well your message carries extra weight.

Your employees feel appreciated and any advice shared as part of the feedback will feel positive.

Criticism

Criticism is harder to navigate as if it is handled poorly it can lead to an uncomfortable working environment.

When critiquing an employee's work it is imperative to try and make it not personal.

Criticism plays an important role in helping people avoid negative behaviors and grow from their mistakes.

Proper criticism should be sincere and caring whilst also containing a level of importance.

Do not let your emotions get the better of you as criticism levied while you are angry, disappointed, or frustrated may lose its message.

The outcome of criticism should still be positive and contribute to an employee's growth.

30 Constructive feedback examples

Let’s take a look at some good constructive feedback examples.

Each topic is divided into three sections, one which displays appropriate positive feedback (praise), appropriate negative feedback (criticism) and inappropriate negative feedback.

Appropriate types are designed to encourage a positive outcome in the future.

1. Feedback about communication skills

Appropriate positive example

“Thank you for keeping me informed of the progress on the project for XYZ. It’s allowed me to keep my superiors up-to-date with our department. Everyone is excited to see the project enter the final phase. I’m impressed by your dedication to the team and I look forward to seeing more from you!”

Appropriate negative example

“You haven’t been keeping me well-informed about your project. I don’t know what’s going on and I’d like to see more communication from you. Can we arrange to have a 10-minute call every Friday with progress updates please?”

Inappropriate negative example

“Did no one teach you how to communicate? The team needs to know what’s going on. This is completely unprofessional.”

2. Feedback about work ethic

Appropriate positive example

“I am so impressed with the effort you gave this project. Your commitment to the client and our department is admirable. We were able to sign off on the project ahead of schedule all thanks to you!”

Appropriate negative example

“Thank you for all the hard work you put into this project. Unfortunately, the deadline was missed but I can see the solid effort you gave us. In the future please come to me earlier if you feel a deadline is going to be missed, we can pull in support to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Inappropriate negative example

“You missed this deadline which has affected our relationship with the client. This reflects poorly on you and the company.”

3. Feedback about leadership

Appropriate positive example

“Seeing you step up and take control of a team has demonstrated your brilliant talent and people skills. Keep it up and you’ll be making a name for yourself here.”

Appropriate negative example

“I’ve noticed that you’re not forthcoming when there are opportunities to lead a project. I appreciate all the work you do and I’d love to see you take on a challenge please let me know if there is anything I can to get you there.”

Inappropriate negative example

“If you’re not going to take these opportunities then why are you even here?”

4. Feedback about flexibility

Appropriate positive example

“Thank you for staying late recently, the work has really piled up and we’re really lucky to have a dedicated person like you on the team to help us reach the deadlines.”

Appropriate negative example

“The deadlines are fast approaching and I’ve noticed you haven’t picked up any extra hours to help out. I would like to see a little more flexibility from you to help us get the project done before the deadlines.”

Inappropriate negative example

“You can’t just leave when there is work to be done. Your colleagues are staying behind to help so why aren’t you? You need to be doing your bit.”

5. Feedback about creativity

Appropriate positive example

“You are very innovative with the way you work. The creative solutions you have shared with the team are invaluable and will save the company time and money in the future.”

Appropriate negative example

“I’ve noticed that you’ve been getting stuck on tasks recently. Don’t be afraid to get creative with ideas to help you get the world done.”

Inappropriate negative example

“There are rules set out for a reason and you should be following them. You aren’t paid to think, you’re paid to work so keep your ideas to yourself.”

6. Feedback about attention to details

Appropriate positive example

“You have such a keen eye for detail. Thanks to your ability to spot errors and resolve them quickly I have been able to free up another member of the team for a new project.”

Appropriate negative example

“I’ve noticed a pattern starting to emerge with your work recently, small errors are slipping through. I know that sometimes this happens so I just wanted to bring it to your attention so we can avoid them in the future. I’ve created a short checklist to go over before you submit your next few projects.”

Inappropriate negative example

“You need to start paying more attention to your work. You can’t keep submitting work that falls below the standards we expect of you.”

7. Feedback about punctuality

Appropriate positive example

“I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for always being here on time. It’s really beneficial to have you hear for these early meetings.”

Appropriate negative example

“I’ve noticed that you’ve been coming into the office late this week. The morning meetings are vitally important and I’d like to see you at more of them. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support you and get you through the doors a little earlier.”

Inappropriate negative example

“Your tardiness is unacceptable and it makes everyone look bad. Show up on time or we will have to take disciplinary action.”

8. Feedback about productivity

Appropriate positive example

“I just wanted to let you know that your hard work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for the extra effort you have been putting in recently. You are a testament to the department and this company.”

Appropriate negative example

“It’s been noted that your productivity has suffered in recent weeks. I’d like to see you back up to your previous levels and if there is anything the company can do to help please let me know. We’ll schedule a meeting a week from now to check on your progress.”

Inappropriate negative example

“You’re not working hard enough anymore. You need to get back up to speed with everyone else as soon as possible.”

9. Feedback about attitude and rudeness

Appropriate positive example

“Thank you for being such a positive spirit around the office. Your ability to lighten the mood and keep things upbeat even against tight deadlines has such a positive effect on your colleagues. The environment would not be the same without you!”

Appropriate negative example

“We’ve noticed that your attitude in the office has turned quite negative recently. This sort of thing multiples quite quickly in an office and starts to affect everyone. If there is something that I can do to help please let me know. It’s a shame to see you like this and I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we’re here to help”

Inappropriate negative example

“Your poor attitude is making everyone feel uncomfortable. You are toxic, unmotivated, and you act like you don’t want to be here.”

10. Feedback on problem-solving

Appropriate positive example

“Excellent work on the project. That was a really tricky one but you were able to dig deep and figure it out. I appreciate that you were able to figure out the problems on your own without pulling other team members in to help. We’re so busy at the moment it’s hard to spare the manpower. Thank you!’

Appropriate negative example

“You’re an incredibly resourceful and intuitive person so next time I’d like to see you work on the issues a little longer before asking for help. Tony has fallen behind in his work now. I’m confident if you’d thought about it a little longer you would have cracked. Do you think you would have got there?”

Inappropriate negative example

“Stop giving up on tasks and making someone else do it. Other people are busy and can’t just stop what they are doing to do your tasks for you. If you’re stuck on something - figure it out!”

How to give constructive feedback

When you decide it’s time to arrange a feedback session, or you have a performance appraisal, with an employee there are a few things to consider to really get this right.

A well-thought-out feedback session can have everyone walking away feeling positive and like they have achieved something.

10 tips to help your feedback make a positive impact

1. Choose the right time and place for feedback

The first thing you want to consider is the location. Small bits of praise and appreciation can be shared among the wider team. On the other hand, criticism that is shared in front of your employee's peers will be shameful and embarrassing.

Criticism is much better delivered in a one-to-one meeting.

You should consider the timing of the meeting. It is best to give feedback as soon as possible while the reference points are still clear.

Feedback is less constructive the longer you wait to arrange the meeting. As long as you feel like you can provide constructive feedback, then the sooner the better.

2. Set the right tone for the meeting

The next thing to consider is the manner in which you give the feedback.

If you want to arrange a meeting to provide negative feedback try not to do this while tensions are running high. If you feel yourself being too angry and unable to censor yourself properly it may be best to wait until you can have the conversation in a more neutral tone.

At the same time the tone should be professional and you should sound confident.

For positive constructive feedback try to use an inspiring and friendly tone rather than casual and funny as it might decrease the effectiveness of your message.

3. Emotional intelligence is key

Further to the previous point emotions can run high during feedback sessions, particularly where criticism is concerned. Anger can cause you to attack the recipient unfairly and this could have consequences. It won’t make you or the recipient feel better and could bleed into the work environment.

Consider the other person as well, how is the feedback going to affect them? How can you present the information in a way that’s helpful to them?

4. Define what is the purpose of the feedback

When you arrange a meeting with your employee the purpose of that meeting should be clearly defined. You should also share why you feel this is an important meeting to have.

As an example if the purpose of the feedback is to improve employee behaviour or performance, then you should have a clear understanding of what you need to discuss and what solutions you can offer.

If you are unclear of the specifics it will be harder to provide constructive feedback.

5. Content of the feedback

You should be able to clearly identify the areas of discussion. Whether it is praising something positive or criticism about areas of improvement. The content should be focused on the work rather than the individual.

If there is a specific action or situation that needs to be addressed then you can share how exactly it is making you and their colleagues feel.

6. Don’t skirt around the issue

It may not be appropriate to slide your feedback in between more positive conversations. It could lead to your message being diluted or misunderstood. Sometimes will be advantageous for a boss to get straight to the point.

7. Encourage a dialogue

Employees should be given the opportunity to add to the dialogue, this should not be a one-way conversation. Once you have given the purpose, observations, details of situations, and reactions then offer the employee a chance to speak.

This is so important as it allows you to hear about the event in question from a new perspective.

8. Be respectful and stay on point

Since you’re dealing with another person you’ve got to remain respectful during the meeting. Keep on point and avoid using language that would cause the recipient to go defensive.

It would be better to lead with phrases like ‘I’m worried about,’ ‘I’ve observed behaviors’ and ‘I’ve become aware of’ rather than phrases that start with ‘you such as ‘you’re doing things wrong.’

Keep to the point and don’t make the meeting too personal.

9. Give suggestions for improvements

The most important part of the feedback should be working with the employee about improvements. You can share what you would like to see in the future such as improvements to working speed, accuracy, relationships with colleagues, or whatever the situation is.

It may be worth creating an action plan and arranging more meetings in the future to check on performance.

This part of the feedback should be to support the employee in the areas they aren’t performing in and focus on reaching a positive outcome.

10. Recap the most important points

Before you end the meeting it is a good idea to just recap everything you have spoken about. This is a good way to avoid there being any misunderstandings and it provides you with an opportunity to check that the constructive feedback was received and understood.

Develop and maintain Learning Culture

In this workbook, we put together tips and exercises to help you develop your organisation’s learning culture.