When and How to Share Constructive Feedback? — 5 Tips

Giving and receiving feedback — both positive and constructive (people call it negative) — is an essential tool to be deployed in our personal and professional lives. We are all humans; thus, we need to give and receive feedback. At home, our spouses, siblings, children and sometime parents need feedback and vice-versa. Same goes for workplace.

Unfortunately, some organisational leaders, managers and family heads are yet to learn how to share feedback. Remember, time, place and environment are key to sharing and receiving feedback. One can yell or raise tone in public but he/she must be prepared for the consequences. Such a feedback doesn’t do any good. Instead, it worsens the relationships. In situations, where you want to talk to an elderly member in the family i.e. your parents, and the home environment isn’t conducive, take him/her along for a long drive and talk it out while driving or in a park or over a cup of coffee at a silent place. Try it out, it works.

Instead of encouraging people to avoid sharing constructive feedback, we should focus on how to deliver it in ways that minimise the fight-or-flight response. One such approach is called Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI). Feedback providers first note the time and place in which a behavior occurred. Then they describe the behavior — what they saw and heard. The final step is to describe the impact the behavior had in terms of the feedback providers’ thoughts, feelings or actions.Most people know that feedback is important. It helps us to see ourselves from other people’s standpoint, identify what skills to work on, receive recognition for what we did good and what and how can we improve further.

But when it comes to actually giving or receiving feedback — it’s not that easy. Feedback given in the wrong way can destroy everything i.e. demoralize or hurt other people. Even though it was done with the best intentions in mind.

Here are 5 tips on how and when to share constructive feedback:

1. Relationships Come First

First and foremost, your goal can only be achieved when you build relationships first. It certainly matters how well you know your colleague or employee, or for that matter a family member or a friend. Don’t expect to run this session with your employee sitting with folded hands and head down throughout. This is not relationship. I have seen organisations where employees literally sweating and shivering during these sessions.

Do not try to push too hard. Seek first to understand and then help. If you fail with building the open and trustful relationship, you’ll most likely fail in achieving your goal as well.

2. Prepare Endlessly

Always remember that feedback sharing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It is highly technical and can make or break the situation. Same goes for receiving genuine feedback. That’s also requires quite a courage and urge to improve. I’ve seen people having long faces and tears in their eyes when you start talking about “Areas of improvement”.

To begin with, do not rely on your memory and do not improvise just for the sake of it. Write everything down. Be clear about what you’re going to say. When emotions rise, you should prefer sticking to the script. Avoid saying anything unplanned that might spoil the whole session.

3. Invest Quality Time

Share feedback as soon as it is due. Don’t delay. It’s the time that really matters. Inform the person at least 2–3 days in advance. Allow him/her to prepare as well. After all, it’s for the benefit of that particular employee and it is his/her right to bring in issues, if any.

The earlier you share it, the earlier a person can correct his or her behavior and improve. Timely feedback is usually understood and accepted very well. On the contrary, remembering the situation from the last year is currently different and difficult. Related article: Click Here.

4. Make it a Regular Feature

There’s no point in waiting until the end of the week, month or even a year (during the annual appraisal review) to tell your colleagues what you think about them. This way you are inviting a disaster for yourself and in turn your organisation. It is much better to stay open and share honest and candid feedback to address issues as soon as they arise rather than avoiding or prolonging important discussions.

Brand such meetings with a catchy name i.e. “Let’s Talk” or Speak Up Sessions. Develop this habit of doing it as often as you can. Remember, investing in your people pays off. If you have something new to say every day — great, do it. Check out this article.

5. Recognise Publicly, Criticise Privately

You got to set a tone. Don’t forget to join your colleague for a coffee or water before you both enter into a meeting room for the session. Please make sure that the place you choose is comfortable i.e. aircon and lights work, it’s not noisy and try to make environment a bit informal.

Public recognition works great. However, public criticism is usually a shame. If you do it, people will avoid delivering the truth, fearing you’ll criticise them publicly. Such teams are not in a psychologically safe environment and would most likely fail. Share negative feedback only privately.

Positive start helps to get comfortable and gain some confidence. Begin with the strengths and positives of the colleague. Reinforce the same, appreciate him/her. Pick a few examples where that very employees outshined and brought a good name for the organisation.

This will work when such a good feedback is followed by the tough and constructive points. You should target to make the whole feedback sharing process positive.

Final Thoughts

According to one of the Harvard Business Review’s cover story, it’s rarely useful to give feedback to colleagues. The authors argue that constructive criticism won’t help people excel and that, when you highlight someone’s shortcomings, you actually hinder their learning. They say that managers should encourage employees to worry less about their weaknesses and instead focus on their strengths.

Research and experience at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) lead to a different conclusion: Feedback — both positive and negative — is essential to helping managers enhance their best qualities and address their worst so they can excel at leading.

Learn how sometimes smaller things in our lives make huge impact and you can take some learnings on a personal and professional level by following me on LinkedIn and on our official website. Also follow us on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan. At Evolve HR, him and his team thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.

C-Level HR, Transformation Leader, Board Advisor, Writer, Business Coach & Organisational Consultant