The Art of Giving Constructive Feedback


No one likes to hear they are doing a bad job or there are things they need to improve upon. But on the flip side, no one is perfect. Chances are that throughout your career you have had to give or receive feedback. While it is never easy, there are a few things you can do to make the conversation go smoothly.

Mastering the art of giving constructive feedback is a skill all leaders should possess, for it creates a positive work environment, where people are not fearful of failure, but will try new ideas and communicate.

Here are a few tips for giving feedback that will not put your employees on the defensive.

Find neutral ground. Asking someone to come into your office when they don’t know the reason for the meeting immediately makes the employee anxious. Not only will they be in your space, but they will be wondering what the meeting is about, what did they do wrong, are they getting fired? My palms are starting to sweat already just thinking about it. Instead, invite them to a meeting in a neutral space. Perhaps send them an email saying you would like to catch up and go over a few things and suggest a meeting spot, whether it is a conference room or a coffee shop on campus, you choose. Also make sure this place is free from colleagues.

Be positive. Once you arrange the meeting, do not sit them down and start listing out all of the things they did wrong. Every time you have to give negative feedback, try to intertwine it with something positive.

Provide action steps. Instead of simply telling them what needs to be improved upon, provide action steps they can take that would help them get there. Give them suggestions for a solution or outcome. That way they do not leave feeling discouraged, but hopeful about how they can improve.

End on a positive note. Ask them for their feedback in return. How do they think the meeting went? Is there anything you need to improve upon that would help them achieve their goals? This way they know that you are also open to feedback and it is not a one-way street. Everyone has room for improvement.

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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