12 Rules of Constructive Feedback

As a leader you want your team members to develop their skills and improve their performance. It is important to provide them with feedback. Although most of people prefer to receive positive feedback, the truth is that we learn far more from negative feedback.

It is a very hard task to give negative (constructive) feedback. Some managers don’t like it because their employees might react like this – start crying, act defensive, or can give “this look.” Other managers don’t know how to do it correctly: what to say, when, where, or how.

1. Choose the right time
Giving negative feedback long after the event has occurred is a big mistake. People tend to forget that what they did was wrong. Negative feedback should be given as soon as possible after the event.

2. Choose the right place
The golden rule is always give negative feedback in private. Why? Let them “save face.” They might deal with negative emotions and don’t want to be in a public display. It also might cause the other employees to take sides.

3. Control your emotions
Yes, you are very angry that you employee was 30 minutes late, didn’t open the store on time, and you lost some sales. You want to cream “I will fire you.” But please remember that your first reaction and first words when you are frustrated are never right. In this situation people always wish they could take their angry words back. You have to calm down, wait some time till your emotions and anger fizzle down.

4. Avoid giving feedback via e-mail, phones, texts, and notes
The best way to give a feedback is in-person because you want to know that they understand the reason for constructive feedback, and could ask questions.

5. Be prepared
Take the time to plan what you are going to say, to gather information, data, and clarify your thoughts. It is always a good strategy to write down the main points so you can follow them. It is not professional when the manager says after the conversation is finished, “By the way, I completely forgot to tell you (ask you)….”

6. Chose right words and intonation
It is not professional to say: “Your bad attitude”, “your rude behaviour”, and “your bad work ethic.”
Instead of saying, “You were so late yesterday” say
“I felt disappointed when you were late because we lost some sales”
“Our customers were very upset waiting for you for 30 minutes”
The same words can be delivered with a different intonation and depending on how we say it could mean something entirely different.

7. Be specific
Identify specific actions your employee took or specific things he/she said.
“You always”, “you never” might provoke the defensive reaction “No, I am not.”
Instead of saying, “You are always late,” better use this phrase “You were 30 minutes late yesterday”

8. Explain what impact on the team (company)
“You were 30 minutes late yesterday. During this time one of your customers was waiting for you, he was very upset and left the store. He spent $3,000 last month $10,000 over the last year. What if he never comes back to our store? It is a very high price for being late, don’t you think?”

9. Give your employee a chance to talk
Ask questions, find out the reason of their action, “You were late yesterday. What happened?”

10. Make suggestions how to improve
What do you expect him/her to do? As a leader, how can you help him/her to improve?
Does your employee need a sales training? Mentorship? Change shift time?
You could also ask them what kind of help they need to get from you (company) in order to improve their job performance.

11. Finish on the positive note
“I am sure that this conversation won’t happened again. We know you as a great sales person and we wish you to continue your success.”

12. Follow up
It will show your employees that you care about them and are ready to help and support them.
“Let’s have a meeting in two weeks and see what changed.”