How to provide effective and constructive feedback as a manager

A key part of workplace leadership and management is providing feedback to the employees within your team. For any company, progress is dependant on the performance and development of the staff. And, in order to enable high performance and consistent positive development, feedback is vital.

It should come as no surprise that there is both a right and wrong way of providing feedback to your employees. The consequences of delivering feedback poorly can have a devastating impact on your business or team; high staff turnover, low motivation, and negative atmospheres. In contrast, delivering feedback well can have the opposite effect: employee loyalty, motivated and determined staff, and a happy, productive atmosphere.

Below, we have outlined several tactics for ensuring that your feedback sessions are both constructive and effective for you and your employees.

Check your intention

Before you provide feedback to an employee, check your reasoning and motivation for doing so.

We can’t stress this point enough. Managers often confuse feedback sessions as an opportunity to scold employees for their performance and/or behaviours. This is wrong; the only purpose of providing feedback is to improve performance.

Simply unloading a list of bugbears and things that an employee is doing poorly will only lead to that individual turning off and looking for a new place to work. It’ll likely also foster a negative attitude towards work in general, effecting their productivity and relationships within the workplace. Remember that negativity spreads like a virus through a workforce, and one individual can soon turn into a department, then a whole division, and even the entire company.

Ask questions

A feedback session, whether it’s an annual appraisal, mentoring session, or general review, can often fall into the trap of one person dominating the conversation. That person is usually the one providing the feedback.

As managers, it’s important to remember that your employees will have thoughts and opinions that they’d like to address and discuss too. Try to avoid doing all the talking; ask questions to actively bring them into the conversation so that you can learn and understand what they’re thinking.

Asking questions will provide a much more engaging experience for the employee, and they’ll likely take much more away from the session.

Be specific

It’s very easy to tell someone that they’ve done a good (or poor) job. We’ve had this throughout our lives, and we’re very used to it. For example, think about how the grading system works in education: you complete a piece of work, and then you find out whether that work was an A, B, C, or D, and so on.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the most effective form of feedback. In the workplace, simply telling someone that they’ve done something well or done something poorly isn’t enough for them to learn and apply that feedback to their future work.

Great feedback is high on detail and it’s completely actionable. There’s not much an employee can take away from hearing, “Your recent project was great”, but in contrast, if an employee is told, “Your recent project was great, I especially liked the way you brought in your colleagues from separate departments and kept us informed on progress”, then they know that their management team likes cross-department integration and regular updates.

Create a plan together

The last result you want from a feedback session is for your employee to leave and not understand how it is that they can improve.

Asking questions and being specific with your feedback can help you avoid this, but another important aspect is to ensure that you work together to set out what the employee should do next. It doesn’t particularly matter how formal this is, it can be anything from a written plan to just a verbally agreed goal for the next quarter. The point is that the employee has something that they can focus on and work towards.

Whilst this is a great tactic for negative feedback sessions, it doesn’t necessarily have to be used solely for setting targets for poor-performing individuals. It can also be used to motivate and inspire the top performers too, for example:

“I’m extremely impressed by your work so far and I think you’re clearly on a positive trajectory that will take you as high as you want to go. Even so, to remain on that trajectory, I think there are some areas that we can help you to improve”.

Final thoughts

Delivering employee feedback is a key part of any management role. Given the associated benefits of delivering feedback effectively, and the negatives of doing so poorly, managers should take the time to learn more about this vital aspect of the manager-employee relationship. We hope the advice above helps, but if you’re looking for more information on providing genuinely useful feedback to your staff then this is an area that we cover as part of our management skills training course. The course goes into much further detail about the various tactics and strategies you can employ for appraisals and performance reviews, along with covering a wide range of other topics aimed at improving your management skillset.