Taking and Giving Constructive Feedback at Work

Have you ever given feedback to a coworker and been met with anger, hurt feelings and/or resentment? Have you ever been provided with feedback and felt attacked, misunderstood, and/or underappreciated? If you have, then you’re not alone. If done incorrectly, providing feedback can be taken the wrong way and barriers will slowly but surely begin to go up throughout an organization.

However, don’t be lulled into adopting a “no feedback” work culture. That is a losing proposition for any work environment. Proper feedback in the workplace can be linked with:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower employee turnover
  • Faster adaptation to new roles and/or new employee onboarding

The key is to make sure feedback in the workplace is constructive, not destructive between manager to manager, manager to employee, and employee to employee communication.

Taking It

To give constructive feedback to coworkers, you must step back and evaluate how to accept feedback yourself. When you take note of how you react to another’s feedback for your job performance, it provides valuable insight into how others will perceive your comments, suggestions, and/or constructive criticism.

Make sure to balance the need to learn and grow with the need to be accepted as you are. Below is a list of ways to balance these fundamental human needs:

  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions; ask why or for specific examples instead of getting defensive
  • Keep relationships in check; listen to the message being conveyed even if the one delivering it “rubs you the wrong way”
  • Omit the word “criticism”; prepare your mind to accept what is being relayed as an opportunity to learn
  • Ask for it; put yourself in control and minimize a defensive stance
  • Provide insight on preferred communication methods; everyone has specific triggers when interacting with others, albeit positive or negative, so make it clear how you prefer advice is presented to you

By analyzing how you personally “take” feedback, you will be in a better position to provide useful, well-received insight to peers and management. It all comes down to how the message is delivered.

Giving It

No one wants to be “the bad guy”. On the other hand, being “too nice” has the potential to stall projects, enable mediocre performance, and harbor resentment from high achievers. The truth can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Clear, concise messages delivered with candor is the way to give constructive feedback. Avoid any kind of aggressive undertone or spiteful delivery. Put yourself in their shoes by keeping in mind how you would receive the comment/suggestion.

Be prepared. Below is a list of ways to ensure the conversation remains in the spirit of learning:

  • Determine what the goals are for the talk
  • Give specific examples, in a non-judgmental way
  • Be open to questions that may challenge your stance/observation
  • Soften any criticism by stating a positive aspect first
  • Focus on the situation and not the person
  • Do not use an active voice, but a passive voice (e.g. “You handled that customer the wrong way” should have been “When the customer was being handled, you did it the wrong way”)

Follow these basic rules of engagement when providing feedback to coworkers and be assured the advice will be received as constructive and not destructive. The bottom line is that you need to respect one another to nurture a positive work culture and thrive as an organization.

Train Your Staff to Respect One Another

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc.’s Tolerance and Sensitivity Training will train your staff to put aside personal prejudices, casual biases and preconceived notions to foster respect in the workplace. Because a positive workplace culture starts with respect. Contact or call 330-255-1101 to speak with one of our training specialist to schedule training today!