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How To Give Best Constructive Feedback to Your Employees With Examples

Author: Ravijojla Novakovic Last updated: February 22, 2024 Reading time: 15 minutes

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

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 of 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 a daily basis. 

In this article, you will find simple rules and examples of constructive feedback to use in the workplace, as well as the 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? 

Constructive feedback, or constructive criticism, means giving useful suggestions or comments that aim to improve the outcome of a project.

Constructive feedback is often confused with positive employee feedback. However, constructive feedback involves suggesting changes to the employees’ content, quality, processes, and behavior to improve their work and feel valuable and acknowledged. 

Since most employees work in teams, knowing how to give constructive feedback presents a priceless skill. 

By applying constructive feedback practices, employees and managers encourage, support, and redirect others’ input to maximize the quality of a certain output. 

How To Give Constructive Feedback Your Employees Need

basic steps of constructive feedback

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

  1. Set goals
  2. Refer to a specific observation
  3. Adjust your tone
  4. Give feedback continuously 
  5. Explain the impact employees make
  6. Create a conversation and ask for opinions

These elements ensure not only the high quality of the project at hand but also help your employees develop and learn. Giving high-quality feedback takes time and preparation; the practice of giving ad-hoc feedback is not something that’s desirable.

Set goals 

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

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

By setting goals in this manner, you have a reference point when delivering constructive 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 it is expected to bring in, when it should be published, and how long it should be active. 

Refer to a 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 for their part of the project, you can use this constructive feedback example:  

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?  

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 team’s effort.” 

This means that poor communication skills can hinder the effective delivery of constructive feedback. Therefore, it’s important to practice the way you deliver your comments.

Give feedback continuously 

statistic showing that feedback should be given continulusly

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 an informal learning process and gradual improvement of your employees’ performance. 

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 the company’s goals and vision, they will understand how to do their job better, and it will help you give better, constructive feedback. 

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’ opinions on your feedback 
  • Suggest improvements or courses 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 it 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 can 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 you should include in the feedback process.

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. 

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?  

Ask for feedback 

why it is important that managers give constructive feedback

Giving feedback is easier if you also receive feedback. Unfortunately, 37% of managers are uncomfortable giving their employees honest 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. 

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 a new level. 

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

Foster peer-to-peer feedback 

how peer-to-peer recognition makes employees more satisfied with work

Peer-to-peer recognition makes 90% of workers more satisfied with their work. Source: SHRM.

Feedback should not be given only in a top-down manner because your employees surely collaborate and communicate with each other.

Fostering peer-to-peer feedback can help your entire team feel more empowered at work and can drastically improve their communication skills. 

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 for positive feedback! Positive feedback is essentially a 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.

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 happens. 

80% of Gen Y employees prefer informal recognition to formal reviews. However, you should still make your constructive feedback specific and goal-related. 

Top Constructive Employee 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 + use appropriate language 
  • What do you think – asking for your employees’ opinions transforms feedback into a two-way conversation. 

Here are some helpful examples. 

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?” 

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 are working on this project as a team, this affects your coworkers’ work as well. I think we should reevaluate your goals and see how you can focus more on the tasks that affect your colleagues as well. How do you think we should resolve this issue?” 

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?” 

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 productive when we cooperated on the [x] project last week with the other team members. 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 the team? 

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?” 

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 from including those items? Do you need help with that?” 

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 reevaluate your goals so we all know what your tasks are. Is there a problem you are dealing with that stops you from doing your best work? How can I help you eliminate those problems?” 

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 goals. Did you notice this? What do you think we should do to eliminate these issues?” 

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.” 

Example #10 

examples of constructive feedback

Instead of: “You are missing your deadlines.” 

You could say: “I noticed you 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?” 

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 techniques mentioned above on a company-wide level. 

Employee learning and 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 redirect less desirable ones, which is what the informal learning process consists of. 

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 employee’s 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 have engaged yourself and engaged 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 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 and positive feedback, you are appreciating your employees’ work and showing interest in their 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 the retention rate because they will directly address the 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 the most valuable skills, yet 20% of remote employees say these are their biggest struggles. 

What You’ve Learned Today

There are several ways in which these constructive feedback examples can help you if you are a manager, leader, or 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 a daily basis, you will create a workplace culture that relies on openness and a 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.

Reflect on what you’ve learned and start improving how your organization gives feedback. 

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