All How to Give Best Constructive Feedback to Your Employees [+Examples]

How to Give Best Constructive Feedback to Your Employees [+Examples] 

Get the best constructive feedback practices and examples to facilitate your employees’ engagement, productivity and development.

user icon Sara Ana Cemazar date icon October 19, 2020 clock icon 15 minutes
constructive feedback

We all know that constructive feedback is the best sort of feedback. Its purpose is to improve the object of feedback itself. However, if you ever had to give constructive feedback, you are probably aware how tricky it is to do so. 

It is especially important to know how to deliver constructive feedback in the workplace. After all, you are trying to improve the outcome of your projects while not offending anyone you work with on daily basis. 

In this article, you will find simple rules and examples of constructive feedback to use in the workplace, as well as most important reasons why feedback is crucial for healthy workplaces and company success. 

🔍 Before we start, get our guide on how to give meaningful feedback to your employees. 

What Is Constructive Feedback 

Let’s start with the basics: what is constructive feedback after all? Simply put, constructive feedback means giving useful suggestions or comments that aim to improve the outcome of a project. It can suggest changes in the content, quality, processes, behavior and more.  

Since most employees work in teams, knowing how to give constructive feedback presents a priceless skill. By applying constructive feedback practices, employees and managers are encouraging, supporting and re-directing others’ input to maximize the quality of a certain output. 

How to Give Constructive Feedback Your Employees Need 

There are a couple of vital elements of constructive feedback. These elements ensure not only the high quality of the project at hand, but also help your employees develop and learnAs you will find, giving high-quality feedback also undermines some groundwork and preparation, as the ad-hoc feedback practice is not something that is beneficial in the long run. 

Here is how you can ensure that the feedback you give to employees is constructive. 

1. Set goals 

First and foremost, you must set goals for a project that you will refer to when giving feedback. According to SMART frameworkgoals should be: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-based. 

By setting goals in this manner, you have a reference point when giving feedback. Of course, not all goals can be set according to this framework but try to incorporate at least some of the SMART elements. For example, when working on a marketing campaign, your employees should know what kind of campaign they should create and why, how many leads is it expected to bring in, when it should be published and how long should it be active. 

smart goals framework

2. Refer to specific observation 

When you refer to goals during feedback, you make feedback objective and lower the chances of offending someone’s personality, work ethos or something else. However, you also need to reflect on an observation. By mentioning what you noticed, you are also pinpointing the object of your feedback. For example, if someone is missing deadlines of their part of the project, you can say:  

Hey [Employee name], I was reviewing our project’s progress and realized that you’ve missed a couple of deadlines. Is there anything that’s causing this delay?  

3. Adjust your messaging 

Your constructive feedback should be aimed at behaviors or actions, not persons. Your employees need to understand that you are not criticizing them personally but are giving suggestions on how to improve the outcome of their actions. For example, instead of saying “You are sloppy”, you could say: 

When you omit the details of our marketing strategy in your report, the leaders get the incomplete picture of the whole teams’ effort.” 

4. Give feedback continuously 

It cannot be overstated: feedback should be ingrained in everyday communication with your employees. Continuous employee feedback has many benefits, like increased employee engagement and productivity. Arguably, its most important benefit is the facilitation of informal learning process and gradual improvement of your employees’ performance. 

continuous employee feedback

5. Explain the impact of employees’ work 

What employees are looking for is meaningful work. In fact, 9 out of 10 employees would accept lower pay to do more meaningful work. If you explain to your employees how their work fits into company’s goals and vision, they will understand how to do their job better and it will help you give better, constructive feedback. 

6. Make conversation 

Instead of just criticizing someone’s work and providing one-way constructive feedback, make it into a conversation. This means that you should: 

  • Ask for employees’ opinion on your feedback 
  • Suggest improvements or course of action. 

So, instead of saying: “You are missing your goals”, try this one: 

I noticed you missed a couple of the goals we’ve set together for the last quarter. Why do you think happened?” or 

I noticed you missed a couple of the goals we’ve set together for the last quarter. I wouldn’t want you to strive to achieve unattainable objectives. How about we redesign your goal strategy for next quarter so you could focus better? What do you think about this?” 

🔍 Get these editable employee evaluation forms to help you assess your employees’ work and help them advance in the future. 


Constructive Feedback Best Practices 

Now that you know what elements your constructive feedback should consist of, it is time to introduce you to some of the best practices when it comes to giving feedback. As you will find, all these practices would lead to having a strong feedback culture, which can help you improve your employee productivity, engagement and business results. 

🔍 See how Hatch has grown their talent and driven company success by enabling carefully designed feedback practices. 

1. Rethink annual performance reviews 

As mentioned before, one of the most important dimensions of effective feedback is its timing. Therefore, you need to rethink your annual performance review practice and give feedback as often as possible. Think about it: how will your employees learn if they receive feedback on the actions, they took several months ago?  

2. Ask for feedback 

Giving feedback is easier if you also receive feedback. Unfortunately, 37% of managers are uncomfortable giving their employees constructive feedback. This needs to change! Ask for feedback yourself and reinforce the company-wide feedback culture. Asking for feedback should be independent of your management style. 

employee feedback

3. Act upon issues raised during feedback 

Improvement lies in the details. Not acting up upon issues raised during feedback can pile up and lead your employees to think their feedback and growth are not important to you. Furthermore, you must ensure your employees are given all the means to improve their work in order to bring the whole team’s performance to the new level. 

🔍 Moreover, check out these best employee evaluation practices to help you deliver meaningful feedback. 

4. Foster peer-to-peer feedback 

Feedback should not be given only in top-down manner, because your employees surely collaborate and communicate with each other. Fostering peer-to-peer feedback can help your employees feel more empowered at work and it can drastically improve your employees’ communication skills. 

constructive employee feedback

5. Give more positive than negative feedback 

Did you know that you should give five times more positive than negative feedback to your employees if you want them to work the best they can? 

Positive feedback ensures your employees know they did a good job. Do not mistake constructive feedback with positive one! Positive feedback is essentially recognition of employees’ good work. However, you should also be precise in your positive feedback and applaud employees for their specific accomplishments. That way, you will deliver both positive and constructive feedback that revolves around someone’s work, making it more objective and less personal. 

🔍 Get our employee appreciation letter templates and employee appreciation quotes to recognize your employees’ work.

constructive feedback

6. Make feedback informal 

You do not have to schedule meetings to give feedback to employees. A much better practice calls for informal, on-the-go feedback as work happens80% of Gen Y employees prefer informal recognition to formal reviews. However, you should still make your constructive feedback specific and goal related. 

Why It Is Important to Give and Receive Constructive Feedback 

To be honest, there is enough material for a book when it comes to positive outcomes of constructive feedback in the workplace. However, here we will focus on five direct and proven benefits of it. In sum, you can expect a more empowered, knowledgeable and high-performing workforce if you use the before mentioned techniques on a company-wide level. 

Employee growth and learning (development) 

One of the statistics that best supports the case for frequent constructive feedback at work is Forbes’s finding that 70% of learning on the job occurs informally. Naturally, providing feedback as work happens has the greatest power to reinforce your employees’ positive actions and re-direct less desirable ones, which is what informal learning process consists of. 

employee learning

Therefore, by giving constructive feedback frequently, you are actively supporting your employee’s development and growth. 

Improved employee productivity and motivation 

If you are looking to boost your employees’ motivation, constructive feedback is the way to go. When you pay attention to your employees work and suggest how to improve it, your employees feel like their work matters and their motivation increases. Naturally, this leads to higher employee engagement as well. 

Enhanced employee engagement 

Gallup reports that 67% of employees are fully engaged in their work when they receive positive feedback from their managers. Moreover, giving feedback sends the message that you are engaged yourself and engages the involved employees. This is confirmed by another statistic – employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% likely to be engaged themselves. 

employee engagement

Employee retention 

One of the main reasons employees leave their companies is lack of recognition for their work. In fact, 66% of employees would quit if they felt unappreciated. By offering constructive feedback and positive feedback, you are appreciating your employees work and showing interest in your employees’ growth and improvement.  

For many HR Professionals, reducing employee turnover is one of the main KPIs. Fortunately, introducing employee feedback practices to a company can significantly improve retention rate because they will directly address lack of recognition and absence of development opportunities, which is why employees mostly quit. 

Improved team relations 

By providing constructive feedback, your employees will improve their communication skills and therefore enhance team relations. Remember, in the world of remote work, communication and collaboration are some of most valuable skills: yet, 20% of remote employees say these are their biggest struggles. 

employee communication challenges

10 Top Constructive Feedback Examples 

After reading about important elements of employee feedback and its best practices, it can seem more complicated than it is. In reality, when you have laid all the groundwork for feedback like setting goals, there is a simple formula to follow: 

  • When you (do this) – this makes your feedback specific + aimed at someone’s action 
  • I feel / I think / I notice – using I language is one of the basics of effective communication 
  • Because – you want to explain the effect of someone’s work 
  • I think it would be best – you are signaling a suggestion on how to improve + using appropriate, I language 
  • What do you think – asking for your employees’ opinion transforms feedback into two-way conversation. 

Here are some helpful examples. 

Constructive feedback example #1 

Instead of: “You are always late to work.” 

You could say: “I noticed that you were late to work a couple of times last week. When you come late, you start working later than your team members and they feel like you disturb their team dynamics. I think it would be best if you could adjust your timing to your team so we can do work more effectively. What do you think?” 

Constructive feedback example #2 

Instead of: “You are lagging behind everyone.” 

You could say: “I noticed that lately you have failed to keep up your workload. However, since we work on this project in a team, these affects your coworkers’ work as well. I think we should reevaluate your goals and see how you can focus more on the tasks which affect your colleagues as well. How do you think we should resolve this issue?” 

Constructive feedback example #3 

Instead of: “You are rude.” 

You could say: “I noticed you spoke over [Employee name] in the meeting today. When you do that, [Employee name] cannot get his/her ideas heard. We need to abide by the rules of group work to get the best ideas out there and keep team relations good. Did you notice this? What do you think about that?” 

Constructive feedback example #4 

Instead of: “You don’t work well in teams.” 

You could say: “I noticed that you work very well when you have an individual task. However, it seems to me that you had problems communicating your ideas and being as productive when we cooperated on [x] project last week. Do you need help in making your ideas heard or tracking everybody else’s work? What can I do to help you work better in team? 

Constructive feedback example #5 

Instead of: “Your communication skills are poor.” 

You could say: “I noticed that you haven’t updated me on your project progress in the last couple of weeks. However, that was one of the goals we have set. Do you think we could establish a bi-weekly meetup so you could tell me how you are doing and if you need any help?” 

Constructive feedback example #6 

Instead of: “You are inattentive to detail.” 

You could say: “I noticed that your report from last week was incomplete and missed a couple of items. When you don’t pay attention to such detail, it makes it seem like you are not aware of how important these points are. You know, [Employee name] needs that for further reporting. Is there anything stopping you to include those items? Do you need help with that?” 

Constructive feedback example #7 

Instead of: “You could be more productive.” 

You could say: “I noticed that lately you have missed a couple of deadlines and that you are disengaged in your work. When you work like that, it affects the whole team. I believe we should re-evaluate your goals so we all know what are your tasks. Is there a problem you are dealing with that stops you in doing your best work? How can I help you eliminate those problems?” 

Constructive feedback example #8 

Instead of: “You have a poor work attitude.” 

You could say: “I noticed that you have been taking a lot of breaks lately and missed work a couple of times. When you do that, it is hard to count on you and distribute work among you and your teammates, which makes us all lag behind our golas. Did you notice this? What do you think we should do to eliminate these issues?” 

Constructive feedback example #9 

Instead of: “You spend too much time gossiping.” 

You could say: “Hey, I noticed that lately you have been engaged in office grapevine conversations. Although you are not alone in this, I would like you to know that this kind of behavior does not make you look good in the eyes of your colleagues and you are losing their trust. I believe it would be best if you could stop this, and if you have any questions that need to be addressed, you can come to me or your coworkers directly.” 

Constructive feedback example #10 

Instead of: You are missing your deadlines.” 

You could say: “I noticed you have missed a couple of deadlines for [x] project last month. I know you have a lot on your plate, but these were the goals we set together. I think we should talk and see what is taking your attention elsewhere, and maybe help you focus on your most important tasks. What do you think about this?” 

employee feedback examples

How Can These Constructive Feedback Examples Help You

There are several ways in which these constructive feedback examples can help you if you are a manager, leader, or in HR.

  • Improving communication patterns. You probably know the ins and outs of employee communication. By using these constructive feedback examples, you will normalize the act of giving feedback, which is still dreaded by many. Therefore, you will improve communication patterns in your organization and help others give feedback more often.
  • Enhancing employee performance. The whole point of these constructive feedback examples is to try to improve employee performance. This cannot happen in a vacuum – we all develop with the help of others!
  • Optimizing company culture. By using these constructive feedback examples on daily basis, you will create a workplace culture that relies on openness and desire to improve yourself. That is a great way to inspire your entire workforce!
  • Increasing employee happiness. Per research, employees want to know that they are making contributions and that their work has meaning. By paying attention to their work and letting them know how they can improve, they will realize that you care – and that their work matters! Use these constructive feedback examples to help employees get better at what they do.