Let’s be real: We’re imperfect creatures.
No one ever likes to admit that they’re not good at something, or that they made a mistake. This is especially true at work. But how else are you going to improve if someone doesn’t call out what you did wrong, or could be doing better, with some constructive feedback.
The problem, though, is that so few of us know (managers included) how to give useful constructive feedback to our coworkers and teammates. So we reached out to a handful of experts in workplace management for their advice. Ahead, we break down the best tips for sharing feedback that actually works.
“If it isn’t useful, it’s just wasting everyone’s time. To ensure this, colleagues and managers need to think about how they will deliver the feedback. This is more than simply saying ‘your performance has been lacking recently’ and involves thinking about how this feedback can be used to improve whatever it is you’re feeding back on.
So, instead of ‘Your performance has been lacking recently,’ you need to think about—managers in particular—how this can be turned into a constructive point. For example: ‘Your performance has been lacking recently; Maybe you would work better if you were more organized. Have you tried creating a to-do list you can tick off?'”
—Natasha Orme, editor, Insights for Professionals
“As a manager, you have to know that you may have set them up in a way to cause that action [that you are critiquing]. After that is considered, lead with gratitude on what they’ve done. Also, another great opening question is, can I make a suggestion? When they say ‘yes,’ it sets them up to be in receiving mode.”
—Ashley Werhun, CEO, Mentorly
“Whenever possible, keep it to verbal and face-to-face. While Slack and email are convenient and feel like they provide a shield from the discomfort of providing criticism, they also leave too much room for interpretation and miscommunication around the tone.”
—Gabie Kur, general manager, BAM Communications
“If you’re pushing for something major to change, you have to be able to explain why something needs to give. How does it slow down the entire process of work? What does it mean for their coworkers? The business
overall? Most importantly, be open to meeting somewhere in the middle. If changes are being made to how someone does their job, it has to work for them as well.”
—Marnie Nathanson, Founder, The Social Status Co.
“I think it is very important to lead by example. I never tell my coworkers something that I wouldn’t do or haven’t done myself successfully. I give examples as to what I’m talking about. I even make sure I tell my coworkers where I failed, and how I picked myself back up. I believe in giving real life, candid examples. I think once you let your colleagues know you aren’t perfect, then that relaxes them, and they aren’t so defensive.”
—Brianna Rooney, founder/CEO, Techees
“Make sure feedback is close to the time of the incident. It’s not helpful to critique someone about something that happened a month ago. Critique in private—never in front of someone else.
After feedback, guide them on where they can find the solution or provide training. Making sure it was well-received: follow up with them the next day via email and check in on them. People can take criticism the wrong way and you want to make sure the whole point was because you believe in them. You don’t critique people you don’t want in your organization.”
—Rebecca Gebhardt, founder, Rise Up Consulting LLC
“If you can show a genuine interest in the person, they can better see that you are trying to help them by having this conversation. Don’t make it feel like a lecture, this should be a conversation where both of you are gathering information from each other on how best to proceed.”
—Tanis Christensen, HR business partner, Mountain America Credit Union