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HR Tips to Share: How to Give Constructive Feedback to Employees

Learning how to give constructive feedback to employees is a hard skill to master, for first-time managers and seasoned executives alike. But it’s a skill that can be improved with time, attention, and plenty of practice – as well as these tips for HR to share with your teams. 

What Constructive Feedback Means 

It’s important to note that constructive feedback does not necessarily mean positive feedback. Constructive feedback is guidance that helps an employee make improvements or corrections. 

And even the most negative feedback can be delivered in a constructive way. Constructive feedback is not about judgment, punishment, or shaming. It provides practical advice and support so that the recipient feels engaged and motivated to do better work.

Why Constructive Feedback Matters 

Learning how to give constructive feedback to employees is essential, because the consequences of doing it poorly – or not doing it at all – are serious. 

Only 10.4% of employees who received feedback that left them feeling criticized, demotivated, disappointed or depressed, feel engaged at work. And 80% of them say they’re actively or passively looking for other employment.

But avoiding the feedback conversation out of fear of decreasing employee engagement is not a good plan either. That means employees aren’t getting the performance management they need to improve in their current roles and prepare for future ones. 

A lack of these constructive feedback conversations is common. Only around a quarter of employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them. And 55% of workers say annual performance reviews don’t improve their performance at work.

How to Deliver Constructive Feedback 

Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvement in how to give constructive feedback to employees. It can be a difficult skill for managers to master without guidance. Here are the most essential tips managers need to know to gain confidence in delivering feedback. 

  1. Check In Often 

47% of workers say that their managers check in with them a few times a year or less. That’s simply not enough to address small problems before they become larger ones and encourage positive behaviors. Try checking in with employees at least monthly, and ideally weekly. It takes time, there’s no way around it, but it’s an essential part of being a good manager. 

And feedback conversations aren’t – and shouldn’t – always be about fixing issues. Showing appreciation for an employee’s hard work is also a constructive form of feedback, and you should provide that regularly in addition to raising problems.  

  1. Deliver Feedback the Right Way 

There’s a right way and a wrong way to give constructive feedback to employees. Feedback should be specific, actionable, and frequent in order to be effective. Frame corrections as development, not criticism, to keep the conversation focused on improvement and building mutual trust. 

And helping your employees to self-affirm when receiving negative feedback can ensure that they properly process feedback without becoming defensive or discouraged. Self-affirmation theory says that if people reflect on values they find personally relevant, they’re less likely to experience distress and react defensively when confronted with negative feedback.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect 

While delivering feedback can feel uncomfortable, the only way to truly improve is with consistent practice. Since feedback is more effective when it’s frequent, consider this an invitation to step up how often you give feedback to your employees. 

If that’s imposing, begin by simply increasing the amount of positive feedback you offer. Preparing for feedback conversations can also help – think about the expectations you would like to set and explain why you’re offering feedback if it’s going to be a difficult conversation. 

  1. Be Aware of Bias 

Bias can creep into feedback conversations easily. For example, when women receive developmental feedback, it tends to be overly focused on personality and communication style – in fact, 76% of “too aggressive” references appeared in reviews of women. 

To avoid giving biased feedback, it’s important to focus on reviewing performance instead of personality. Try describing the problem to be fixed, like missed project deadlines, instead of telling an employee they are disorganized. 

In Conclusion 

Learning how to give constructive feedback to employees is one of the most essential management skills. HR can use these tips to help their teams practice these skills and prepare for feedback conversations, and set everyone up for success. 

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