Whether positive or negative, giving feedback at work helps employees to recognise their flaws and improve — professionally and personally.
However, some people only tend to give positive feedback and leave the negative ones out of fear that their working relationship will turn sour. The truth is, when and how you deliver the feedback matter for it to be effective, especially when giving negative feedback.
Here are 11 rules to give effective feedback in the workplace:
1. Give instant feedback
Giving instant feedback is a modern method that’s popular among big techs like Microsoft, Adobe and Google. This culture encourages employees to give constructive feedback to each other.
Why wait to give feedback when someone is doing a great job? Giving feedback to employees right away makes them more confident.
On the other hand, they’d feel left in the dark when receiving negative comments only at the end of the year, especially during the performance review, without having a chance to improve.
2. Show empathy
Empathy is key when giving constructive feedback to employees. Imagine this situation happens to you. Your direct report messed up and delayed the project. Your colleague is dozing off during the meeting. There must be a reason why things go south.
No matter how upset you are, give yourself and them some time to cool off before giving negative feedback. When you finally have the chance to talk to them, ask why it happened rather than going straight for the attack.
On the other hand, some people become unbearable because of their blind spots. But if you don’t point out their mistakes, they’ll never realise it.
For example, people who are brutally honest and proud of it — not realising that they could be honest and use a better choice of words not to offend others.
3. Praise in public, criticise in private
I learned about this rule of giving feedback at work from my former marketing CMO. I’m sure most managers have probably heard the phrase “praise in public, criticise in private”.
When your employee is doing a great job, make sure the others are aware of the praise. You can compliment them via group chat, during meetings or daily scrums.
However, when you’re issuing a correction or reprimand, do it privately. Thus, you don’t come off as attacking the recipient and protect their feelings from humiliation. In addition, the recipient will be more open in accepting your feedback.
4. Ask if they’re ok to receive feedback
Not everyone is open to feedback. For some people, receiving sudden, negative feedback may cause them stress. Therefore, make sure to ask recipients about their preferences on when and how they’d like to receive feedback in the workplace.
Nevertheless, the willingness to improve is one of a traits of a great employee. If they consistently asking for your feedback to upgrade themselves, they have the potential to be the future leader.
5. Don’t make it personal
When giving effective feedback to employees, it’s crucial to not make it personal. Feedback should always be about the performance of the recipient, not their personality. For example, your subordinate keeps interrupting you when talking to a client.
You can tell him in private, “When you interrupt me in front of the client, it causes a problem. We should show the client that we’re a good, solid team.” Focus on the recipient’s behaviour, not character.
6. Be honest and sincere
Only give feedback when you really have something to say. Use the word “I feel” instead of “I think” when delivering your point. Clarify how you feel about the issue.
Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice for the recipient to feel your sincerity. When giving negative feedback at work, make it clear that you are keen to help people improve. Deliver your point clearly and directly, but remember not to be rude.
7. Do it face-to-face
When giving constructive feedback to employees, a face-to-face meeting is always better than a virtual one. Meeting them in person is more sincere. It shows that you care about the recipient and wish to see them improve.
You can also see their reaction and body language in real life. So, you’ll get to observe how well employees receive your feedback.
8. Use the hamburger method
Giving negative feedback in the workplace isn’t easy. It’s something that you have to do, but you don’t want to hurt the recipient. One of the ways to give constructive feedback is by using the hamburger method:
- Begin the conversation with some positive comments
- Praise the person of their strong points
- Give the negative feedback
- Give the resolution and corrective steps
- Encourage the person, give positive statements, remind them about their strong points
Notice how this method starts and ends with a positive note, softening the stress effect on recipients towards the negative feedback.
9. Use the BEEF method
Do you prefer something more straightforward than the hamburger method? You’re not alone. Some people feel that the hamburger method isn’t sincere.
For example, the recipient may think, “here comes the bad news” when finally stating the point. This is where the BEEF method comes in handy.
BEEF stands for Behaviour, Example, Effect, and Future.
Here are some examples of how you can use the beef method:
“Hi John Doe, I’d like to give feedback based on your presentation just now. Are you ok with it?”
“The presentation lacks research and misses some points.
You had two weeks to do it and I feel that’s more than enough time.”
“Were you aware that you’re upsetting the stakeholders and delaying the project?”
“Did something happen? How can I help you with the presentation?”
10. Be specific
Be specific when delivering effective feedback in the workplace. It’s best to focus only on one issue rather than addressing multiple problems at once. Avoid giving generalised evaluations and asking vague questions. Communicate your point clearly by adding details and examples to your statements.
11. Provide solutions
Remember, the point of giving feedback at work is to help the recipient improve their work habits. Ask the person what you could do to help or provide solutions for them to improve.
On the side note
There’s nothing to be scared of when giving constructive feedback to employees, as long as you intend to help them. To be safe, you can ask if they’re ok to receive feedback as a courtesy.
You may want to invite others to give you feedback too. Two-way feedback is a great way to encourage giving effective feedback in the workplace.