The fine art of constructive criticism


Business people during a lunch at the loft interior

Make sure your employees know what they are doing well. You could start a feedback discussion with a genuine compliment. When giving feedback, many managers swear by a ‘feedback sandwich’ in which they follow a three-step process that focuses on mentioning what the employee is doing well, providing some areas for improvement and then setting a goal for the positive results that are possible. Other managers prefer offering praise at other times and just delivering feedback when appropriate. Either way, an employee should have a thorough understanding of what they are doing right before you help them understand an area in which they need to improve.

Make recommendations. No one likes being ordered around. That’s why feedback in the form of a recommendation can be a much more effective way to help people grow and improve. Instead of “You can’t attend brainstorming meetings without speaking up and offering ideas of your own.’ Instead, ‘You have a lot of great ideas. I’d love to have you provide at least one of your ideas in each of our brainstorming meetings going forward.’

Stick with one issue at a time. Provide feedback in small doses, if possible, and do so in a timely manner. Don’t unload months of resentment in one afternoon. Regular feedback, positive, neutral and negative, is extremely important.

Get specific. Make sure you’re giving specific feedback that includes real examples. Vague feedback is too easily misinterpreted, which can lead to misunderstandings. Be as specific as possible in both your feedback and what you expect from your employee. In the best-case scenario, your feedback can create a call to action.

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