How constructive feedback can take business to the next level

| 26 September 2016

By Jessica Midlane, Nashua Brand Marketing Manager

Beijing, China- July 10, 2016: Jenga is a game of physical and mental skill created by Leslie Scott. Taking one block from wooden blocks tower that stability decrease

Giving positive feedback to a stellar employee may be easy, but what about an underperforming employee who needs negative feedback? For confrontation-phobes, this can be tough. But with a little know-how, managers can give practical and constructive criticism to benefit all parties involved.

Tread carefully
It’s vital to schedule regular check-ins with reviews and reports, and to prepare a consolidated list of negative and positive performances. As a manager, you’re more likely to be seen as objective and fair.

It’s important to tread carefully when giving feedback to avoid demoralising employees – there’s always a way to take the acerbic sting out of criticism. Most importantly, when giving feedback, first acknowledge the employees positive traits and things they’re doing well. Everyone responds well to compliments. An employee is far more likely to be open and receptive to feedback if their positive attributes are foregrounded – they’re less likely to feel victimized.

Get to the point
Managers need to be straightforward and get to the point. People tend to switch off and lose interest when their manager starts to ramble and talk around the point. Effective feedback is deliberate and concise.

The ‘Just Culture’ principle is an effective feedback method to enforce. This is an environment in which anyone can comment on a team member’s performance, without worry or retribution – a ‘just’ and fair culture in the organisation for all employees. With ‘Just Culture’ any team or organisation dynamic can improve – it just takes trust and honesty.

Understand behaviour
It always helps to understand why the employee may be behaving in a certain way and to understand why they deal with things the way they do – understanding the thought process is crucial to understanding behaviour. Start the feedback session asking where they’re at and how they’re feeling, then use this to inform the rest of the meeting.

By doing this, employees are able to identify where things have gone awry, but also come up with effective solutions once they’ve had a chance to take a step back and gain insight into their mistakes.

Don’t jump to conclusions
Avoid jumping to conclusions. Give employees a chance to explain themselves. This way you have all the facts at hand and have a better, more realistic idea of the situation and how to move forward and solve the problem.

Managers should express their concerns when delivering feedback. A tone of concern communicates sensitivity and this is more likely to be well received than a display of frustration or disappointment.

Give feedback as soon as possible after an event, so it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. When it’s given too long after the fact, the impact is significantly dampened.

Benefits in the workplace
Feedback isn’t just a tool to diagnose and resolve issues – it also allows employees and managers to co-operate and find solutions collectively.

Communicating with employees helps them see the bigger picture and how they fit in – they feel valued and heard. This increases productivity, gives team members confidence in their role and makes it more likely they’ll stay and grow with the business.

With honest, consistent feedback and constructive criticism, mistakes are addressed immediately leading to streamlined teamwork and smoother project timelines. Constructive feedback also results in better leaders who are in touch with their team’s needs – so they can motivate, inspire and engage them.

Opening the lines of communication ultimately creates the ‘happy sandpit’ all organisations look for. In an environment of trust, there’s decidedly less pent-up anger and antagonism.

For managers (and organisations) to attract, create and retain an engaged workforce, they should be committed for the long haul. Building trust and credibility to keep employees requires effort – but it’s worth it. A happy and engaged team ultimately means increased productivity.