Let’s talk about the dreaded F-word — feedback! It can be scarier than a clown in a horror movie, but it’s actually the key to professional growth and improved performance. So, don’t be afraid, we’re here to help you embrace feedback. As a manager, giving constructive criticism can be tricky — some employees are open to it, while others take it personally and go into hiding like a hermit crab.

But research shows that regular feedback is essential for employee job satisfaction and engagement. According to Pew Research, workers who receive regular feedback from their managers are more satisfied with the amount of feedback they receive as well as their relationship with their manager. Gallup data show that meaningful feedback can lead to increased engagement and productivity. The findings emphasize the significance of providing feedback in a manner that generates a constructive and efficient work environment.

To ensure your feedback is well-received, use your empathy superpower, active listening skills and constructive language to create a safe space for growth and development. By doing so, you can motivate your employees to improve without sending them running for the hills. So, don’t shy away from feedback — embrace it as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Let’s review how skills like empathy and active listening can encourage better employee performance and outcomes.

1. Empathy.

The definition of empathy is to have the skill to comprehend and feel the emotions of another person, sharing in their experiences. When giving feedback, it’s essential to put yourself in your employee’s shoes and understand their perspective. Empathy is particularly crucial when dealing with difficult conversations, such as addressing poor performance or giving critical feedback. For example, let’s say an employee missed a deadline, causing a delay in a project. Instead of saying, “You missed the deadline, and now the whole team is behind schedule,” try saying, “I understand that things can get overwhelming, and I’m here to help you prioritize your workload. Let’s work together to find a solution to ensure that deadlines are met in the future.” This approach shows that you’re not blaming the employee for the situation but rather acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and offering a solution to prevent similar issues in the future.

2. Active listening.

Active listening is the practice of giving full attention to what another person is communicating and providing an appropriate response. When providing feedback, it’s essential to actively listen to your employee’s concerns and feedback. This approach helps you get to the root of the issue and identify any areas where you can offer support. For example, if an employee expresses concern about not having enough bandwidth to complete a project, you could respond by saying, “I hear you. Let’s work together to see if we can find additional resources or redistribute tasks to ensure that your workload is manageable.” This approach shows that you’re not dismissing their concerns but rather working with them to find a solution.

3. Constructive language.

Using constructive language can help you deliver feedback that is both supportive and actionable. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, emphasize what can be done to improve the situation. This approach shows that you’re not criticizing the employee but rather offering feedback that can help them grow and develop. For example, instead of saying, “Your presentation wasn’t good,” try saying, “Your presentation had some great points, but there are some areas where we can improve. Let’s work together to identify those areas and come up with a plan to make your next presentation even better.” This approach shows that you’re acknowledging their strengths while offering feedback that can help them improve.

4. Humor.

Injecting some humor into your feedback can make the process more enjoyable for both you and your employee. A lighthearted comment can help break the tension and create a more relaxed atmosphere. However, it’s important to use humor appropriately and avoid making jokes at the employee’s expense.

Remember that there are three types of feedback: positive, constructive and developmental. Positive feedback is meant to recognize and reinforce good behavior, while constructive feedback is meant to address areas for improvement. Developmental feedback is meant to guide toward long-term growth, much like a GPS. By using empathy, active listening, constructive language and a little bit of humor where appropriate, you can create a positive feedback culture in your workplace.

Constructive Feedback: How To Improve Poor Performance.

Giving and receiving feedback effectively is critical for it to be helpful. When giving feedback, use empathy, active listening and constructive language. Give specific examples of what can be improved. When receiving feedback, don’t take it personally — remember, it’s about your behavior, not you as a person. Ask questions to clarify and reflect on the feedback to identify areas for growth. Remember: Feedback is meant to help you grow and develop.

The feedback sandwich.

The feedback sandwich is a popular method for providing constructive feedback. It involves sandwiching constructive feedback with positive feedback to make it more palatable. For example, start with a positive comment, provide constructive feedback and end with another positive comment. This method can make the feedback more actionable and digestible for the employee.

Giving constructive feedback.

Constructive feedback should focus on the behavior, not the person. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying “You’re always late,” say “I’ve noticed that the team has to wait when you arrive late.” This method is more constructive and provides an opportunity for discussion.

Overcoming resistance.

People often resist feedback because they fear criticism or take it too personally. To overcome this you can approach feedback with a growth mindset and as an opportunity for learning and development (L&D). Think of it like a videogame: You’re not perfect at the beginning, but with practice, you can level up and become a better manager.

Looking Ahead

When giving constructive feedback, managers should remember to:

  • Set clear expectations and goals to help employees understand what is expected of them and what they need to do to improve their performance.
  • Provide regular feedback to help employees stay on track and make adjustments as needed. It’s also important to recognize and acknowledge when employees are doing a good job.
  • Give positive feedback to help motivate employees to continue performing at their best.
  • Recognize and reward employees for their hard work can also help create a positive work environment and increase employee engagement and satisfaction.

Finally, it’s important to remember that feedback is a two-way conversation. Encouraging employees to share their thoughts and feedback can help managers better understand their needs and concerns and improve the feedback process. Creating a feedback culture can help managers build stronger relationships with their employees and help them achieve their goals.