The Importance of Constructive Feedback

Coaching Through Feedback

Often when people think about feedback, they cringe and recall a time when it was negative. A Gallop report said that four out of five employees look for work elsewhere because of negative feedback from their manager. For this reason, our Ask Fuel First question highlights the need for constructive feedback: how can I provide positive and constructive feedback to my employees that isn’t judgmental or mandated? 

One part of providing feedback is recognizing the efforts of others and showing appreciation. We’ve already discussed the power of saying thank you and gave suggestions on showing appreciation in our previous Ask Fuel First section on Establishing a Thriving Workplace Culture. Still, we think it’s important to mention how recognizing others is essential to providing feedback, and you should always start with recognition and appreciation. After that, you’ll need to be more constructive in your approach. Remember, you want to avoid creating an experience where the employee leaves feeling defeated. 

Giving feedback should take the form of a conversation between two people. When you start that conversation, be positive and clear that you are a willing partner. This is because people often assume feedback is a product of the relationship between those two people. This association affects the feedback, but so does the surrounding culture. Imagine an organization with a thriving workplace culture where co-workers show their appreciation for others and feel valued. Feedback given in this environment will most likely be welcomed. Conversely, feedback given in an environment where employees are stressed and are unclear of how their role contributes to the organization’s success may be more cautious about getting feedback from others.  

Constructive feedback in the right environment provides valuable information to others about improving performance or redirecting behavior. Giving feedback (positive/constructive) is one skill everyone should master. You’ll notice that we didn’t say it was a skill that every manager should master. That’s because giving constructive feedback is not merely the responsibility of management; instead, skillfully expressed, your peers can provide feedback, too.

Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback 

Constructive feedback, also known as redirecting, focuses on suggestions for improvement instead of pointing out failures or flaws in their performance. Here are some tips on giving constructive feedback:

  • Make it about you: Use “I” statements, such as “I noticed that the report wasn’t sent before the deadline.” Making “you” statements, such as “you missed the deadline,” may make you sound confrontational.
  • Take absolutes out of the equation: Words like “always” and “never” can dramatize an issue since they are rarely correct. Don’t include absolutes, like these, in your feedback, as they can be disheartening for others. 
  • Watch your tone: The tone in your voice while giving feedback says more than the actual words you use. Be sure your tone and body language convey your willingness to help and positivity while giving feedback. 
  • Plan ahead: Think about the feedback you plan to give others ahead of time. By considering what you’re going to say and how others might interpret it, the chances of it being successful are increased.  
  • Take your emotions out of it: There will be times when you’re upset about something and will want to base your feedback on those emotions. Take some time to calm down and think logically about how you will approach input positively.

Avoid the Two Common Pitfalls of Feedback 

It’s hard to address a difference of opinion in your feedback; however, you can manage a person’s behavior. Your intent should be to address an issue for added efficiency or changed behavior. It is not to get into an argument over a difference of opinion. 

Feedback can help others improve unless they feel they are being judged unfairly or are given a mandate. These are two common mistakes that people make when trying to provide feedback. 

1. Making Judgements 

This type of feedback sounds like a person’s opinion and can sometimes come across as a reprimand. For example: 

  • “You didn’t come across like you were prepared for that call.” 
  • “Your tone is condescending when you have to repeat instructions to patients.” 
  • “You’re taking too long to complete this process. You’re going to have to have to learn how to manage your time better.” (This is both a judgment and a mandate.) 

It’s easy for the recipient of this feedback to become defensive. Ultimately, the conversation will shift away from learning tips on how to be more organized when managing a phone call to the person feeling the need to defend their integrity.  They might reply to that feedback with comments like “how can you say that” or “that’s not true; I spent a lot of time preparing for the call.” Instead of making this a learning moment, judgmental feedback, in effect, causes the recipient to stop listening because they’re considering how to defend themselves. 

It’s hard to address a difference of opinion in your feedback; however, you can always address a person’s behavior. Your intent should be to address a behavior that you’ve observed, such as “I noticed on the last two phone calls, you didn’t have an agenda. Having an outline of talking points helps keep a call on track.” 

2. Imposing Mandates 

This type of feedback is when you direct a person to change their behavior by telling them what to do or what not to do. For example: 

  • “Please stop telling patients they need a physician’s referral because you are making the appointment process too complicated for them.” 
  • “Next time this situation comes up, I want you to find me before you do anything.” 
  • “Don’t ever say ‘hope to see you soon’; say ‘good-bye’ to patients when they leave.” 

Not only might this type of feedback cause the recipient to become defensive, but they also won’t understand the real problem or may feel like they’ve been given conflicting information. Either way, they will leave the conversation frustrated or angry.

Coming across as judgmental or giving mandates when providing feedback is usually not intentional. Regardless, you should be better equipped to share feedback with those who work with you. If you need more examples of how to give constructive feedback, contact your Fuel Medical regional manager or the Professional Development team.  

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