Business Skills: Giving Constructive Feedback To Managers And Employees

Offering constructive feedback to managers or employers can be touchy. Here are a few tips that can help you do it effectively.

In the workplace, people often are expected to provide feedback, suggestions, or even criticism. Depending on your co-workers' personalities and your status within the company, this can be easy or difficult. If you find yourself struggling to deliver constructive feedback, here are some guidelines that may make it a more comfortable approach for both speaker and listener.

1. Build positive relations with co-workers all the time. Don't wait for occasions when you must interact or evaluate a project. Treat each person in your workplace with respect and courtesy. Then, when bad news must be shared, they will be more likely to accept it without holding a grudge.

2. Blend positive and negative comments rather than saying only critical things. Use the "sandwich" approach favored by counselors when you must say something critical about a person's work:

-Begin with a positive or neutral statement:

"Your projects always come in under deadline."

-Continue by tempering criticism with praise:

"The proposal looks well-designed, but you'll need to expand the budget section."

-Finish with a return to positive comments:

"Looks like we have a winner when the budget section is resubmitted."

3. Be careful with body language. Maintain eye contact but don't glare. Keep voice poised and calm. Face a person directly rather than fidget or brush past while speaking. Talk in a measured tone, and provide opportunities for the listener to ask questions or seek clarification. Take the role of a patient adviser rather than as a militant who expects perfection.

4. Keep a written record. Even if it's just a personal note for the file, keep track of the date, time, and specific comments related to your constructive feedback, along with the listener's response, if any. Indicate the follow-up plan, such as when changes will be made or the work completed. Give a copy to the person who received the feedback so that both of you have a written account of the meeting and share the same understanding and expectations for eventual outcomes.

5. Praise generously. When things go well, be sure and let others know. Thank them for making changes or redoing a project. Lead by example in your willingness to take on some of the hard tasks or revise incomplete or unacceptable work without complaining. Tell others when someone has done a good job or demonstrated a positive attitude.

6. Provide support following the constructive feedback. For example, if during a performance review you mention to an employee that he could use some help with his technical writing skills, offer to enroll him in a company-based course, if one exists, or suggest courses that might be available at the local community college or technical school, especially if the company will share or pay in full the tuition costs. If the employee could benefit from additional relational skills, appoint a mentor or offer to become one yourself, assuming a friendly air of helpfulness as you spend time teaching someone "the ropes."

Continue to make your feedback constructive rather than destructive by following tips like these. Your coworkers will learn to value your comments instead of dismissing them lightly or grumbling about your critical nature.

© High Speed Ventures 2011