Constructive feedback is one of the most important tools we assessors have in our tool kit. Sadly not all feedback is constructive. Feedback that is not delivered in a constructive way can actually achieve the exact opposite and be destructive.
What is Destructive Feedback?
Destructive feedback often referred to as negative feedback has the sole purpose of putting people down. Destructive feedback points at faults and is a direct attack on the individual concerned. In destructive feedback, no advice or support is given. It has none of the benefits of constructive feedback and often damages both parties. Whilst in the short term it may make the giver of the feedback feel better about the situation in the long term this feeling is often reversed.
Examples of negative feedback often heard are;
“That’s wrong, we don’t do it like that.”
“Haven’t you learnt anything yet?.”
“It would be quicker if I did it myself.”
If you use any of these phrases or anything similar now would be a really good time to stop and learn how to give constructive feedback. Not only for your learners or employees but also for you.
Now let us look at how to give feedback correctly, constructive feedback.
What is Constructive Feedback?
Constructive feedback is supportive feedback given to individuals to reinforce positive actions and offer support to correct any failings or identified areas for improvement. This part is really important, as it helps achieve personal and professional growth in both the feedback giver and the feedback receiver.
For the feedback receiver, constructive feedback can:
- Improve their sense of well-being.
- Set clear goals around expectations and current levels of performance.
- Provide a new perspective and give valuable insight or alternative ways to address a problem.
- Help them adapt or change their behaviour.
For the feedback giver, constructive feedback can:
- Help to reinforce their knowledge and skills.
- Allow them to reflect on their current levels of performance.
- Provide the opportunity to develop their management or assessor skills.
- Help them develop new or existing members of staff.
Making feedback constructive
Here are a few simple tips for making feedback constructive:
Focus your feedback on the issue and not the individual
Constructive feedback should not be about personalities. As a professional, you need to separate the person from the issue. Your feedback must be about what the person did rather than who the person is.
Only look to address what you know to be true.
Constructive feedback should relate to what you have seen, read, or heard. Do not take this information and apply your own assumptions and interpretations. Nor should you base it on hearsay or gossip.
Focus on things that the feedback receiver has control over.
Constructive feedback should be about things that a person can change and improve on. It would be totally unfair to give them feedback on events or situations that are totally beyond their area of control or influence.
Keep your feedback specific.
When giving feedback don’t ramble on so that the purpose of the feedback could get lost. Additionally don’t try to cover a lot of topics in a single feedback session. The receiver will be left confused and you will not of achieved any of your aims. It would be much better to break this down into several smaller feedback sessions.
Offer possible solutions, not more problems.
Constructive feedback should include a specific solution or recommendation to resolve an issue. The solution needs to be something that is within the receiver’s current level of ability.
How to give constructive feedback.
The most effective way to give constructive feedback is to use something known as the praise sandwich. If this is something that is new to you then it is simply a way to sandwich the actions you wish to change or improve upon between two things that the employee or learner is already doing well.
An example of this for an employee might be;
They went out of their way to help a colleague who was struggling (a good thing).
Because of that, their work did not get done (a bad thing).
They offered to work overtime to get their jobs finished (a good thing).
And for a learner that might be;
They completed a very good piece of work (a good thing).
There were a lot of spelling and grammar errors (a bad thing).
They are making really good progress on their course (a good thing).
Things to remember when giving Constructive Feedback
Whatever technique you use to give your constructive feedback there are 4 key areas you need to make sure you cover.
- Describe what you have seen, heard, or been told by a reliable source and what needs to be addressed or improved upon without being confrontational.
- Give the individual the opportunity to evaluate your comments and respond if necessary
- After the individual has had the opportunity to respond, offer advice on how the situation can be improved. If necessary agree on some SMART targets for this
- Summarise everything the pair of you have discussed to avoid any misunderstandings. If SMART targets are used set a follow-up date to check on progress.
Above all remember constructive feedback is a tool to help improve performance. It should be of benefit to both the person giving feedback and well as the person receiving it but it does take practice to get this right so stick with it.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.