5 steps to giving constructive feedback at work that really helps

Read Original Version (CLB5+) You are reading the Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

Helpful feedback is important, especially in our jobs. It tells us what we are good at. It also tells us what we need to improve on. If we take feedback seriously, it can make us try harder. It can also push us to do great work.

Getting good feedback is not hard. But, giving and getting bad feedback can be difficult. It can be even more difficult when you work with people from different cultures. Differences in culture can make it difficult to know if our message was understood or not. Dr. Lionel Laroche talks about this in the video below:

Developing Cultural Diversity in your Organization, MultiCultural Business Solutions.

What is constructive criticism?

Constructive criticism is helpful advice. It gives ideas on how to improve a task, service or product. We say it’s “constructive” because it’s not meant to hurt the person or the relationship. Instead, it’s about making the work and the system better.

We all give this type of advice at work. Not only our leaders, bosses or supervisors can give constructive criticism. It’s a big part teamwork. How we handle it helps build trust. It can help make relationships stronger and create good teamwork within your group.

A good thing to do is to watch how your Canadian boss, coworkers and clients give feedback. Pay attention to the signs when they are happy or unhappy with your work. This will help you understand what they are saying. Use it to do better. It will also help you when you need to give feedback to others. Dr. Lionel Laroche talks about the usual ways that Canadian managers give feedback in the video below:

Developing Cultural Diversity in your Organization, MultiCultural Business Solutions.

5 Steps in giving constructive criticism

  1. Know why you want to provide feedback

    Deri Latimer, an HR expert, says to use the short word T.H.I.N.K. before you say anything:
    Is it True?
    Is it Helpful?
    Is it Inspiring?
    Is it Necessary?
    Is it Kind?

  2. Pick the right place and time

    It’s better to speak alone with the person. No one likes to feel bad in front of others. But if you need to fix a problem right away (like during a talk or in a meeting), say it nicely. The best way is to ask it as a question. Let the other person explain.

  3. Use the feedback sandwich

    A feedback sandwich starts and ends with something good. The real feedback is in the middle.

    It might sound like this: “Your report was good. But I think you forgot to talk about our work with the refugees last year. I did like the growth chart you made at the end of the presentation. It’s a good summary.”

    But, some people say that the feedback sandwich doesn’t work. While it can make the feedback less harsh, it can also hide the message. It would be better to be clear but careful. Highlight the things that the other person needs to work on. It might also help to suggest a plan of action.

    For example: “Your report was good. But I think you forgot to talk about our work with the refugees last year. The growth chart is a great idea for a summary but it would have been better with the refugee numbers. It also explains why the numbers changed in the second quarter. For the next presentation, do you think it would be a good idea to meet to discuss the types of information we should focus on before making the final report?”

  4. Keep it short and be clear

    Don’t give a lot of feedback all at once. It will be too much! Focus on one thing and don’t make general statements.

    Avoid saying: “You never finish your work on time.” Instead, say “You did not finish the report yesterday. Can we talk about how I can help you manage your time better in the future?”

    A big part of giving helpful criticism is focusing on the behavior, not the person. Avoid saying anything about the person’s character based on their work. Compare the result of not changing the wrong behavior with the result if they change. This will make it clear how they, and others, will benefit if they improve.

  5. Give them a chance to reply

    Let the other person reply to your feedback. You will see that good workers like feedback. They do not make excuses about their work. At the end of the conversation, offer help and encouragement. Each of us is always learning. We grow with each other’s help and reassurance.

Videos used with the kind permission of Dr. Lionel Laroche.
Sources: Receiving and giving effective feedback, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo; Do you T.H.I.N.K before you speak? Deri Latimer, Huffpost; The psychology of feedback, Asa Don Brown, Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association; and 10 real-life examples of giving effective employee feedback, Nora St. Aubin, office vibe. Retrieved March 19, 2019.

Back to top

We'd love to hear from you!

Please login to tell us what you think.

Related Learning Activities

WorkCom_Before you begin

A woman giving a presentation at work

Thinking about your knowledge and skills is an independent learning strategy. When you think about what you can do and what… Read more »

WorkCom_Week 4

A woman giving a presentation at work

This is our last week of Workplace Communications. This time you are in the driver’s seat. We look forward to your presentation… Read more »

WorkCom_Week 3

A woman giving a presentation at work

We have now reached week 3 of Workplace Communications! This week, we are engaging in a number of activities that allow… Read more »

WorkCom_Week 2

A woman giving a presentation at work

In week 2,  we continue practising working with others by doing a peer review. A peer review helps you develop… Read more »

Back to top

CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.