What’s the nicest way to give constructive feedback?

What’s the nicest way to give constructive feedback?

I just received a review from my boss that included a comment that I am too harsh when I correct employee performance. I want to come across as friendly and diplomatic. What is the “nicest” way to give constructive feedback?


Myra’s answer to: What’s the nicest way to give constructive feedback?

I salute you for quickly looking for help in giving constructive feedback more constructively. You can’t go wrong with these steps…

1.      Always begin with praise. Dale Carnegie once said, “Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling but the Novocain is pain-killing.” Starting with praise puts both you and your employee at ease.

2.      Describe the specific performance/behavior you have observed. If I say, “Lynn , you don’t respond well to feedback.” that doesn’t tell her much. But if I say, “I am concerned about the way you respond to my feedback. For example, last month when I spoke to you about your attendance, you became defensive and abruptly left my office. Yesterday, when we spoke about the same issue, you raised your voice and again walked out of my office.” Describing the situation helps the employee understand exactly what you mean and it helps them to accept the feedback as valid. Vague feedback may actually be more confusing than helpful.

3.      Respond to the situation. It’s important for you to express your feelings about the performance or behavior so the employee knows exactly how you feel. You mi g ht say, for example, “I’m disappointed in you and I know you can do better.”

4.      Invite your employee to respond. Giving constructive feedback must be a dialogue and it’s important for your employee to state her feelings just as you did. Ask, “What do you think about what I’ve said?” Getting the employee to respond makes the discussion more relevant and builds accountability for behavior or performance change.

5.      Offer suggestions for performance improvement. Instead of giving a direct order, which employees tend to not like, offer a suggestion. You might say:

§         “You might consider this.”

§         “Do you think this would work?”

§         “What do you think of this?”

§         Maybe if we were to phrase it this way it would be better.”

6.      Summarize and express your support.  You’ve covered a lot in steps 1 – 5. Now it’s a good idea to clarify your main points and the employee’s commitment. One suggestion is to say, “ Lynn , what will be your first step?”  After hearing and accepting her response, you could say, “I know you’ll do just fine. Let’s get back together in exactly 30 days to review your progress.”

These simple steps will position you to engage in interactive dialogue that is focused on results and maintaining the esteem of your employee. Use these steps the next time you give constructive feedback and you won’t feel guilty or cause resentment.

P.S.  You might be interested in reading, “We need to talk about how you coach your employees.”

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