Giving effective constructive feedback does not have to be difficult if you keep in mind the following ABCs:
#1: Effective constructive feedback is appropriate in time and in place.
It is important to choose an appropriate time and an appropriate location to give constructive feedback. Feedback should be given timely, and at an appropriate time. Timely constructive feedback occurs within a few days of the observed behavior. This way, the incident will still be fresh in your mind and in the mind of the person with whom you will be speaking. If you wait much longer than a few days, there is a good chance that the person will have forgotten about the behavior. Also, the further removed you are from the date of the incident, the more inclined you will be to lessen the effect of the incident, i.e. “What Bob did wasn’t really that bad. I was probably just overreacting to the situation.” The worst thing you can do as a supervisor is to not address the issue until the employee’s annual performance review. Not only is this unfair to the blindsided employee, it also casts you in a bad light as your supervisors will wonder why you neglected to address the issue when it first arose.
Next, you’ll need to arrange an appropriate time to discuss the issue. Find time in your schedule to allow both you and the other person sufficient time to hold a productive conversation. Five minutes here or there or the fifteen minutes between meetings will not be enough time to sit down and talk. You don’t want the other person to feel rushed or to feel that there is no time for him or her to respond to what’s been said. We’ll discuss a bit later the importance of follow-up.
Location, location, location. When giving constructive feedback, location is just as important a consideration as when purchasing real estate. Constructive feedback should be given in private.
Use your office. If you work in an open cubicle setting, ask to use someone’s office or use an empty conference room or meeting space. The idea is to provide a private and confidential environment for your conversation. Additionally, as a general rule, it is not appropriate to give constructive feedback in front of others. Give your employees and co-workers the respect they deserve by discussing work performance issues in a one-on-one conversation. No one likes to be thrown under the proverbial bus in front of his or her colleagues. Not only is this unprofessional, it embarrasses the employee and makes those co-workers who are present uncomfortable.
#2: Effective constructive feedback focuses on the behavior, not the person.
We all have our own personality flaws, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Keep in mind when giving your constructive feedback that no one is perfect, including you. Try to refrain from focusing on the person’s shortcomings. Remember we all have them. Instead, focus on the behavior in question. When you focus on the person’s behavior and how it is affecting the workplace as a whole, he or Resin Driveway she is less likely to get defensive and will be more likely to be receptive to your message. For instance, suppose one of the members on your team consistently misses deadlines and, as a consequence, causes other members of the team to fall behind in their schedules and meeting their commitments. Your constructive feedback should focus not upon this person’s utter lack of effective time management skills. Rather, your feedback should focus upon how on x occasion, the person’s failure to complete his or her tasks by the prescribed deadline negatively impacted the rest of the team in a, b, and c ways.
#3: Effective constructive feedback is contextual.
Have you ever gotten into an argument with your significant other over what you thought was one issue only to have the argument disintegrate into a shouting match rehashing issues you thought were resolved months ago? Or, perhaps the person brought up something that happened over a year ago that you are now hearing for the first time. You thought to yourself, “Now why didn’t he tell me that my leaving the cap off the toothpaste bothered him a long time ago???” Let’s switch gears to see how this same dynamic plays out in the workplace. You are the supervisor of the customer service department. You’ve asked John to come and speak with you about complaints you’ve recently received about his customer service. Your constructive feedback should be contextual in that it addresses the specific issue before you, namely concerns about the quality of service John is giving to his customers. Now would not be an appropriate time to discuss how John was 45 minutes late to the last department meeting or how he doesn’t contribute to the weekly donut kitty yet helps himself to two glazed Krispy Kremes every Friday morning. Going back to the first quality of effective constructive feedback, that it be appropriate in time, alleviates any contextual problem. When you address and resolve issues in a timely manner (within a reasonable time after the behavior is observed), there is no need to dredge up past wrongdoings because, presumably, they have already been addressed and resolved.
#4: Effective constructive feedback is descriptive.
One of your goals in giving constructive feedback is to identify an area in your colleague or employee’s work performance that could use improvement. Therefore, general comments about working harder, being a better team player, or other euphemistic clichés are not particularly helpful. After all, how can I, as an employee, begin to address and correct an issue if I am not clear which behavior I am engaging in is unsatisfactory? When giving constructive feedback, endeavor to be very specific. Compare and contrast the following examples.
Paul, I need you to start being a better team player.
I am not sure what you mean. I contributed over 120 hours to the Manheim project this month and worked with Paula, Christine, and Scott to make sure those proposals went out to the client on time. I worked late every night last week and came in on the weekend to help Christine finish the reports for the Donaldson project. How am I not being a good team player?