Feedback is crucial in the business world, as it allows employees and employers to measure progress and correct issues. In the human resources (HR) field, effective feedback is especially important, as it can improve employee productivity, motivation and satisfaction.
Most HR representatives agree with this — in fact, almost 9 in 10 HR leaders believe that ongoing feedback has a positive impact on their organization. But what should your feedback process look like? How can you deliver feedback effectively and make sure it’s constructive?
This guide will answer those questions and more, so you can start giving your employees the feedback they need to succeed. Let’s get started.
Constructive versus destructive feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is a necessary part of life. It can help us grow, learn and improve our performance. However, not all feedback is created equal. Some feedback is constructive, while other feedback is destructive.
So, what’s the difference?
Constructive feedback is designed to help someone improve their performance or behavior. It is respectful, honest and specific. Destructive feedback, on the other hand, is often critical, unhelpful and vague.
It’s easy to see which type of feedback is more beneficial — constructive feedback helps people learn and grow, while destructive feedback can actually hinder progress and damage relationships.
Examples of constructive vs. destructive
Let’s take a look at some examples of constructive and destructive feedback.
Constructive: “I noticed that you didn’t contribute to the discussion in the meeting. In the future, I would suggest offering your thoughts and opinions.”
Destructive: “You’re such a useless team member. You never do anything right.”
Constructive: “I think you could improve your presentation skills by using more visuals.”
Destructive: “You’re boring, and you talk too much.”
As you can see, constructive feedback is specific; it provides clear instructions on how someone can improve. Destructive feedback, on the other hand, is vague and unhelpful. It often contains criticism that is not relevant to the situation at hand.
Why should HR support constructive feedback?
As aforementioned, most HR reps are in support of ongoing feedback — but why is it necessary, and what are the benefits? Let’s take a look.
Progress and improvement
Constructive feedback helps employees learn and grow. No one is perfect, and everyone can benefit from some guidance now and then. By providing employees with feedback — both positive and negative — you help them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to work on improving themselves.
In a team setting, constructive feedback is also essential for progress. A team that doesn’t receive and act on feedback will quickly stagnate, while one that does can continue to improve and work towards common goals.
Employees who feel appreciated and supported are more likely to be productive and happy at work. On the other hand, employees who feel that their work is being criticized or ignored can quickly become disgruntled and unproductive.
Constructive feedback is one way of showing employees that you care about them and their work. It can help to build trust, and shows that you are interested in their development.
When employees feel that they are being listened to and that their work is appreciated, they are more likely to stay with the company. This makes logical sense — who would want to stay in a job where they feel undervalued and unsupported?
On the other hand, employees who receive constructive feedback are more likely to feel that they are part of a team, and that their work is important. This can make them more likely to stay with the company for longer periods of time.
Constructive feedback is a form of communication. By providing feedback, you are telling the employee that you have noticed their work and that you want to talk to them about it. This can open up the lines of communication, and help to build a better working relationship.
How can you give and receive constructive feedback effectively in HR?
Giving and receiving constructive feedback is one of the most important skills you can have in HR. It allows you to give and receive criticism without causing offense, and it can help improve the overall quality of your work. Here’s a simple guide to getting the most out of constructive feedback:
1. Make a point to give and receive constructive feedback regularly
Giving and receiving constructive feedback is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at it. Try to set aside time each week to give and receive feedback.
2. Critique the work, not the person
When giving feedback, always critique the work, not the person. For example, rather than saying “you’re lazy”, say “I noticed that you didn’t submit your report on time. Could you tell me why that was?” This will help the person feel like they can improve their work without feeling bad about themselves.
3. Use “I” statements
It can be tempting to use “you” statements when giving feedback, but this can often be seen as confrontational. Instead, try using “I” statements. For example, say, “I noticed that you didn’t submit your report on time. I think it would help if you could tell me why that was.” This will help the person feel like you’re on their side.
4. Be specific
Remember to be specific when giving feedback. Rather than saying “that was a terrible presentation”, say “I didn’t like the way you used statistics in your presentation. It made it hard to follow along.” That way, the person knows exactly what they need to work on.
5. Avoid giving criticism that is vague
It’s important to avoid giving criticism that is vague. For example, saying “you need to be more organized” is not very helpful. Instead, try giving specific examples of how the person can be more organized.
These are just a few tips for giving and receiving constructive feedback in HR. Remember, the most important thing is to be patient and to take things slow. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at it.
How to navigate destructive interactions
Many people view constructive feedback as a criticism, and they react defensively. This often leads to destructive interactions that don’t help anyone.
In situations like this, you may need to defuse the situation before you can give feedback. You might try something like this:
- Get their attention. Make sure the person you’re giving feedback to is actually listening. You might need to interrupt them or get them to focus on you.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Let them know that you understand that they may be feeling defensive or upset.
- Explain why you’re giving feedback. Tell them specifically what it is that you want them to do differently.
- Offer support. Let them know that you’re available to help them if they have any questions or need clarification.
- Follow up. Make sure that they understand what you’ve told them, and offer additional support if necessary.
Giving feedback is a difficult task, but it’s important to do it effectively. If you can master the art of constructive feedback, you’ll be able to improve your HR practices significantly.
Examples of constructive interactions
To wrap up, let’s look at a few examples of constructive interactions in the workplace. We’ll start with a destructive conversation so that you can compare and contrast.
Manager: “You’re not meeting our expectations.”
Employee: “What am I doing wrong?”
Manager: “Your work is sloppy.”
Employee: “Can you give me an example?”
Manager: “You should just know what I’m talking about.”
This interaction is destructive because it doesn’t solve the problem at hand. The manager is unhappy with the employee’s work, but instead of giving her specific feedback and helping her to improve, the manager just criticizes her. The employee doesn’t know what to do to fix the problem and ends up feeling defensive and attacked.
Now let’s look at an example of a constructive interaction.
Manager: “I have been seeing a couple of mistakes in your work.”
Employee: “What can I do to fix them?”
Manager: “I think you could be more careful when checking your work. There are a few tools you can use to help with that.”
This interaction is constructive because it solves the problem. The manager has identified a mistake in the employee’s work and given her specific feedback on how to fix it. The employee knows what she needs to do to improve, and she feels supported by her manager.
Here’s another example of a constructive interaction.
Manager: “I noticed that you didn’t submit your report on time.”
Employee: “Really? I must have forgotten. I’m sorry.”
Manager: “It’s okay, but I need you to submit it on time from now on. It’s important that we meet our deadlines.”
Employee: “I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to submit it on time from now on.”
Manager: “Thank you. I appreciate that.”
This interaction is constructive because rather than attacking the employee or blaming her for the mistake, the manager is understanding and helps her to learn from her mistake. The employee apologizes and makes a commitment to do better in the future. This interaction leaves both parties feeling positive and willing to work together.
Final thoughts on constructive feedback
Constructive feedback is easy to talk about in HR meetings, but more difficult than you’d think to put into practice. It can be tough for managers to give and for employees to receive without taking it personally. But with a little effort, constructive feedback can help improve employee productivity and morale in the workplace.
Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of what constructive feedback is and how to use it in your own HR department. Keep in mind that it’s important to tailor the feedback to each individual employee, as everyone learns and absorbs information differently.