Constructive Feedback

How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Team

6 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

Feedback can be hugely valuable – but only when it’s imparted correctly. 

Unsolicited feedback can feel like criticism, especially when it’s clumsy or a little too personal. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, has the power to help employees level up and enjoy improving their skills.

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is different from other kinds of feedback due to how it’s delivered. Unlike some other varieties, this is a way of giving feedback that focuses on supportive suggestions for improvement. In many ways, constructive feedback is an essential part of any coaching or mentoring program and an important tool for leaders and managers.   

Why is feedback important?

While some employees are highly self-motivated and able to self-manage successfully, others can really benefit from the motivational boost that regular feedback and check-ins can bring. 

Even workers who prefer to get on with it alone will find value in targeted feedback, especially when it helps them improve their own processes. A Zenger and Folkman study found that 92% of people actually want negative feedback – especially when it offers the opportunity for change. 

The benefits of constructive feedback

With constructive feedback, people can modify their behaviour and improve their processes with minimal disruption. Constructive feedback:

  • Offers new learning opportunities and space for growth 
  • The chance to practice honesty in the workplace and build trust  
  • Creates space to consider strengths and weaknesses
  • Helps avoid the escalation of potential problems and issues
  • Shows that you’re invested and helps boost employee engagement

It’s important to offer constructive feedback in the moment rather than saving it all up for appraisals or reviews. A study found that 28% of employees felt like they didn’t get feedback often enough to help them make meaningful differences in their behaviour. 

15 constructive feedback examples for employees 

Not quite sure how to handle constructive feedback? We’ve got a few examples to help you get started.  

Constructive feedback for an employee who interrupts and speaks over others

While it can be tempting to assume this is down to rudeness, other factors may be at play. For example, enthusiasm for the topic or worry that they aren’t performing well could cause someone to speak out when they shouldn’t. There are a few ways to handle this, depending on which reason drives the behaviour.

1. ‘I appreciate your excitement about the project and value your ideas, but I’ve noticed that your enthusiasm makes it hard for others to contribute. Could you leave a little more space for other ideas?’

2. ‘It’s great to see your willingness to contribute. I’ve noticed that you come up with many good ideas and sometimes talk over other people. Please take your time so that other people can chime in.’

3. ‘While you are good at holding the floor, it’s important to us that we hear everyone’s take. Can you work on being receptive to other people’s ideas?’

Constructive feedback for an employee who keeps missing deadlines or goals

First, think about the goals themselves and how much the employee has on their plate – is there a chance they’ve been giving too much work to cope with? Or could it be that the goals haven’t been clearly communicated? That way, you can try and work together to overcome the issues.

4. ‘You haven’t managed to hit your goals as expected. Were they clear from the outset? Do you have a different perspective on what was expected of you?’

5. ‘It looks like you’re not quite managing to meet your goals right now. Have you had any particular obstacles standing in your way? Is there anything we could do to clear those?’

6. ‘It seems you’re struggling to meet your goals right now. Do you have too much on your plate? Do you think your workload is realistic and can we talk about a better way to manage it?’

Constructive feedback for lowered productivity 

When you realise an employee is falling behind on their productivity levels, it’s a good idea to look at past check-ins and reviews before tackling feedback. Employees may be experiencing burnout or be dissatisfied with their role, and you might be able to better pinpoint the problem by understanding the timeline. 

7. ‘While you’ve always been a strong worker, I’ve noticed that your output seems to have dropped recently. Is there anything going on that’s caused a change? Anything we can do to help?’

8. ‘It looks like your productivity is a little lower than usual. What can we do to get you back on track? Do you need a change or a break to shake things up a little?’

9. ‘I’ve noticed that your numbers seem to have slowed down compared to last year. How do you feel about your goals and targets? Is there too much going on? Or do you feel under-challenged?’

Constructive feedback when you notice an employee’s work ethic is low

If an employee has started to turn up late or has frequent absences, it’s imperative to be sensitive to the reasons. There’s a chance that the employee may be demotivated, discouraged or unhappy. A careful tread could help you get to the bottom of the problem and encourage positive change. 

10. ‘We’ve never noticed a problem with your attendance before, but there have been an increased number of absences recently. Has anything been going on that affects your ability to get into work?’

11. ‘While flexibility is important here, we also need people to turn up on time to the best of their ability, and we’ve noticed that you are frequently not managing this. Is there anything we can do to help you manage this?’

12. ‘You’ve missed the start of a few meetings recently and haven’t been around much. Are you happy in your current role, or is there anything affecting you negatively at work?’

Constructive feedback on poor teamwork or ineffective communication

We all know how important effective communication is in the workplace. When employees fail to make themselves clear or work well with their colleagues, a little bit of sensitive feedback is necessary. 

13. ‘I’ve noticed that some of the emails you’ve been sending to your team have been met with confusion. Could we sit down and talk about the areas that might’ve been unclear to see if we could develop a few alternative phrases?’  

14. ‘You have made many negative comments recently, and while your feedback is appreciated, it’s important to remain professional while communicating with your colleagues. Is there something bothering you?

15. ‘We’ve realised that you’ve not been sharing information with other members of your team, even when it would be useful for them to know. Is this absentmindedness or is there another reason? Transparency is important to us.’

Five tips on providing constructive feedback 

Get the balance right with some useful guidance for staying constructive. 

1. Don’t let it get too personal

Be sure to always focus on the behaviour rather than the person. Naturally, people can feel defensive when they feel criticised or attacked, so it’s always best to stick to the issue. 

2. Be specific 

By the same token, when given feedback that is too broad or too woolly, it can be hard to understand. Be specific, and be sure to have particular incidents, facts or figures to back you up. 

3. Always make sure it’s actionable 

For feedback to be constructive, there has to be something for someone to work on. That means there should be an actionable solution to the problem and a clear path forward. 

4. Show appreciation 

Recognising someone’s good points and the effort they’re putting in is a smart way to ensure feedback gets off on the right foot. Show your appreciation while giving feedback regularly, and feedback is more likely to be well received. 

After all, Glassdoor found that 81% of employees work harder when their boss is appreciative. 

5. Focus on the path ahead

Rather than allowing yourself to get bogged down in the issue being addressed, be sure to put the focus on how you can support your employee to make improvements in the future. 

Constructive criticism is a great way to help employees address issues and grow as people. Don’t forget that most difficult conversations offer improvement opportunities, even if they feel tricky at first. 

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