There's a fine line between thoughtless criticism and constructive feedback. But their impact on the work environment couldn't be more different.
It's easy to criticize. After all, we're wired to look for the negatives in things. But giving voice to those negatives with little concern for how they impact someone else's performance or feelings tends to make things worse, not better. Instead, we should aim to provide constructive feedback, complete with clear and actionable suggestions that are sensitive to the recipient's needs. Of course, giving this kind of proper feedback demands a little more of our time and consideration. But it tends to result in big improvements and a happier, more productive workspace.
In this guide, I'll show you how to give better constructive feedback using a relatively simple shift in your approach and delivery.
Why is it important to give constructive feedback in the workplace?
Nobody's perfect. It doesn't matter how good you are at your job—there's always room for improvement. Whether it's addressing a project that needs polishing or negative behavior that requires adjustment, constructive feedback can help smoothen rough spots and enhance workplace operations.
To better illustrate the benefits, here are a few ways constructive feedback can help in a modern work environment:
Improves performance - Constructive feedback includes actionable advice that offers a clear and direct path toward enhancing deliverables and increasing productivity.
Clarifies expectations - Poor execution is usually the result of poor communication. Constructive feedback helps clarify any disparities between expectations and outcome.
Promotes professional growth - Studies show that feedback is essential for continuing growth, teaching new skills and illuminating blind spots.
Increases team morale - Most people shut down with undue or overly critical feedback. But constructive feedback actually strengthens the connection between team members.
Of course, these are just a few ways providing positive feedback can help your team and organization. However, before you and your co-workers can begin reaping these benefits, you must understand how to provide constructive feedback in the first place.
What is the best way to give constructive feedback?
There are many ways to give constructive feedback, but they all share a common set of traits designed to support the recipient's process. Here's a look at how to provide constructive criticism in a way that's easy to receive and implement.
1. Be respectful.
Feedback can activate areas in our brain associated with threats (AKA, the fight-or-flight response), causing recipients to shut down or even become hostile. Take the edge off by showing how much you respect the recipient, their autonomy, and their contributions to the business.
There are many ways to show that you respect the recipient. One solution is to ask them if they're open to receiving your feedback. If you're their supervisor, the answer is almost certainly a yes. But simply asking this question offers the person some sense of control over the situation, lowering their guard and making them more receptive to your advice.
Of course, kindness and proper communication skills also speak volumes. Talk to the recipient like you would a friend, using nonverbal indicators like smiles to show positive feelings. Don't just focus on negative feedback, either. Talk about the good stuff, sprinkling in anecdotes about what you love as well as what needs improvement.
2. Make your feedback clear and actionable.
Nobody wants to parse your feedback like it’s morse code. Avoid the cryptic messaging by identifying areas of improvement and vocalizing your suggestions as succinctly as possible.
In addition to prioritizing clarity, aim to be objective in your evaluation. Try not to discuss the person's skills, character, or other subjective and personal attributes, focusing instead on observable data points, e.g., the layout of a project or a person’s actions and behavior.
Also consider discussing possible ways the person can implement your suggestions. That doesn't mean doing anyone's job for them. But it does mean providing an understandable foundation for them to move forward without confusion or uncertainty. Of course, you should also keep your door open after giving constructive feedback, allowing the recipient to ask you questions and seek clarification if need be.
3. Choose the right delivery method.
There are two primary ways to deliver constructive feedback. You can do it live or asynchronously.
Live feedback sessions—whether in-person or over platforms like Skype and Zoom—are the traditional method for delivering feedback. These offer a highly personal interaction that's direct and familiar to most people. The downside is that all parties must be together and ready to go simultaneously, a challenge in remote workplaces. Face-to-face team meetings can also be intimidating for the feedback recipient, causing them to raise barriers before you've even begun a discussion.
Then there's asynchronous feedback, which comprises text and video feedback. Given the importance of nonverbal cues like intonation and body language, text-based solutions are far from ideal. But async video feedback is different. It provides nearly all the benefits of in-person communication, alongside the convenience, clarity, and casualness offered by online interaction.
The Benefits of Using Video Messaging for Constructive Feedback
Asynchronous video messaging is one of the most effective and easy-to-implement communication channels available, making it a staple in Fortune 500 companies around the world. Although async video has many uses, it particularly excels at helping you provide better constructive feedback in a fraction of the time. Here are just a few ways it can aid in the process:
Offers a convenient global platform -Async video messaging works everywhere there’s an internet connection, making your constructive feedback easily accessible to anyone within the organization.
Enhances communication -Nonverbal cues comprise up to 93% of communication, all of which gets lost with text-based solutions like email and Slack. Studies also show that video enhances receptiveness by up to 95% over text-based learning, making your async video message even more impactful.
Provides more context -With async video messaging, you can capture your webcam and screen while giving feedback, making it clear what you’re discussing and what needs improvement. You can also save your recordings, creating a reference for the recipient to revisit and refer back to while making changes.
Reduces tension -Receiving feedback can be intimidating. Async video messaging reduces apprehension, giving the recipient time to listen and digest your comments before responding. It also tends to be much more casual, more akin to a friendly phone call than a daunting business meeting.
The only real drawback to async video messaging is the slight learning curve. Fortunately, tools like Loom aim to minimize the onboarding process, providing an intuitive platform that lets you start recording constructive feedback in minutes.
Loom Video Examples of Constructive Feedback
What are some examples of constructive feedback? Look no further than these feedback sessions recorded by Loommates:
How to Use Loom Screen Recorder to Deliver Feedback to Your Teammates
Loom is an async webcam and screen recorder that excels at creating clear, concise feedback for your colleagues or employees. Although you can use it for any type of constructive feedback, it’s particularly ideal for giving feedback on projects.
To begin giving feedback with Loom, follow these four easy steps:
Open up Loom’s web or desktop application.
Bring up the project you’d like to provide feedback on.
Choose the project window from Loom’s selection menu.
Hit the record button and begin giving your feedback.
For best results, keep your comments clear and casual, like you’re walking through things with a friend. If you're using the desktop app, you can make highlights and circle areas of importance while you're recording. Of course, you can also make minor adjustments after the fact, creating a clear final message that's easy to understand and implement.
Once you're happy with the video recording, send it to your recipient with a single, easy-click link. Loom happily hosts your video, providing a secure place that your colleagues can refer back to as they adjust and tweak their blog posts, codebases, design mockups, and other deliverables.
Sign up for Loom and start implementing better constructive feedback today.