How to give constructive feedback

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How to give constructive feedback

Those who work together as a team want to move forward together full of drive. But not every team member always takes the right direction. How do you make that person aware of this without them feeling attacked? By giving them feedback! But what exactly does giving feedback mean?

The aim is to achieve a change of course with words. The person addressed should in no way feel personally attacked. This makes it all the more important to find the right words and empathy to show.

Whether at work or in your personal life, you always have a choice! Either you speak openly about something in order to improve it, or you remain silent and nothing will change.

If you find the path of authentic, open communication difficult, then ask yourself why? Take a pen and a piece of paper and write down your thoughts. Perhaps you can even think of a situation from your childhood that has particularly shaped you in this respect. It could be the reason why you still act or react in this way today. Only, do you want to stay in these old shoes or boldly take a new direction?

However, it is important to strike the right tone, because otherwise feedback quickly turns into criticism. But where exactly is the difference here?

What does giving feedback mean and what does criticism mean?

Feedback is constructive and designed to improve something. This can be interpersonal relationships but also the productivity of the work. Criticism, on the other hand, is often negative. But it can also be positive and offer the addressed person room for growth.

The criticized person often feels attacked, sometimes personally, and immediately looks for justifications with which he can oppose the negative words. Criticism thus primarily evokes a bad feeling and robs motivation. This brings no one forward.

Again, you're welcome to Self-reflection walk: What triggers you about the criticism? Who have you possibly heard this from more often in the past? With feedback, on the other hand, you show your counterpart what he can improve and how. This is motivating, because he can show what he is capable of!

Feedback can be seen as a kind of constructive exchange of information. Both parties talk together about what the current situation is, where the goal is and how the path to it should be shaped. So different perspectives meet and each faces the other with understanding and a positive attitude. After all, the common goal is to move forward and not to demotivate others.

constructive feedback at work

Ten tips for giving feedback

We have now discussed the goal of giving feedback. But how do you express it correctly? As with almost everything in life, there are rules for giving feedback. We have compiled ten of them for you.

1. start giving feedback at an early stage

If you start praising desired behavior early on, it will be reinforced. You show your employees that they are doing an excellent job and reinforce exactly these behavior patterns. In this way you offer them a certain security, because they know exactly what you want from them. The fewer aspects there will be in the future that you would like to change.

2. choose the right time

Feedback only arrives when all parties involved have time to listen to everything in peace. Otherwise, what is said goes in one ear and out the other. Also, you should talk about things quite promptly. The less time that has passed in between, the better your counterpart can put himself back into the situation and understand what you want to say to him.

3. avoid emotionally charged situations

Emotions are still bubbling because you and the person you're talking to may have just come out of a nerve-wracking meeting. This is not a good basis for having a calm and constructive conversation. The danger that the conversation will move in a destructive direction is too great now. It is better to wait until the tempers have calmed down again.

4. conduct the conversation in private

When you invite an employee to an interview, it makes him nervous. After all, they don't know what to expect. Always give your feedback in private, because the FearThe fear of being embarrassed in front of colleagues is often great among employees. At best, the others don't hear anything about the conversation, so they don't ask unpleasant questions afterwards or even whisper behind the colleague's back.

5. find a positive start

Remember, feedback is a positive thing. So start the conversation with praise, for example. Tell your counterpart that you appreciate his work and are glad to have him in the team. He will then be much more open to suggestions for improvement.

6. bring forth concrete facts

If it is about points that you consider to be in need of improvement, the unpleasant part begins for your employee. Even if the conversation has a positive and understanding tone, there are nicer topics for him. So describe exactly what situation you are referring to and how you would like to improve it. Avoid generalizing words like "always," "never," "everything," or "nothing." They evoke a defensive attitude in the person you are talking to.

7. speak from your point of view

To ensure that suggestions for improvement are actually received, it is helpful to explain why certain things are so important to you. For example, if you're talking to a coworker who's occasionally late for meetings, avoid accusatory phrases like, "You're always late." It's better to explain that these latenesses are wasting valuable time that you need elsewhere.

8. watch your tone

The way you speak accounts for about 25 % of your communication. The reason for this is that the voice conveys emotions. Even if you formulate suggestions for improvement in a positive way, you can ruin everything with an annoyed tone of voice.

9. proceed step by step

The conversation is going really well and your counterpart is very cooperative and understanding? Then don't push the situation to the limit, but be satisfied with what you have already achieved. Don't overwhelm your conversation partner by bringing up more and more points. Consider in advance which points you might be able to address later and keep the mood positive.

10. speak openly about what you wish for

Now you have talked openly about what is going well and what is going less well. Now it is important to discuss how things should proceed in the future. Tell your partner honestly what kind of behaviour you would like to see. After all, only what you have discussed can be put into practice.

Giving positive feedback with example sentences

To give feedback properly, you should meet with your interviewer in a quiet place where no one will disturb you. Introduce the one-on-one conversation with a few kind words and show your counterpart that his or her work is appreciated. Go into special tasks of the last days, where your interlocutor could shine with good achievements and much engagement. Then skilfully move on to possible points for improvement. It is possible to give feedback afterwards with examples like: "I also noticed that... I would like to talk to you about how we can improve things together."

Describe your observation in a matter-of-fact way, without interpreting anything into it. This way you keep the conversation open for your counterpart and don't intimidate him. Don't use phrases like: "You always hand in important documents too late! When giving feedback, it's better to use example sentences like, "Yesterday you turned in document XY a little later than we had discussed. Were there any problems?"

Ask the employee about his perception of the situation to which you are referring in the conversation. In this way, you give him the space to describe his view of things. At the same time, this shows empathy on your part.

If you have been able to clear up any possible complications, then talk openly about what you would like to see in the future. Don't formulate your wish as a demand, such as: "Learn to be more organized!" Rather, point out possible solutions, such as: "Please let me know in advance if you're going to be late next time."

Five mistakes when giving feedback

personal criticism at work

Those who give constructive feedback can achieve a lot. Those who give bad feedback can do the same, but in a negative sense. Conflicts intensify and no one finds each other. So not only the content of the feedback is important, but also when and how you give it. You should avoid these five mistakes at all costs.

1. do not hurt anyone personally, but choose your words carefully.

Don't blurt out feedback uncontrollably. Pick a good moment when you can have a calm conversation in a positive environment.

3. don't judge anyone and don't focus on mistakes.

4. do not limit yourself to your own interests, but to those of the whole team.

5. don't dwell on blame, but strive to find a common solution that moves the whole team forward.

Processing Feedback: The SARA Model

Anyone who receives feedback goes through a certain reaction spectrum, which is known in science as the so-called SARA model. Behind this are four phases, which give the model its name:

1. shock

2. anger

3. resistance (resistance)

4. acceptance

Let us now take a closer look at these.

The shock phase

Anyone who is asked about a mistake or a matter that needs improvement in the form of feedback is initially shocked. The person doesn't want to admit it and thinks at first: "Someone else must have made a mistake!" In this phase, self-perception and the perception of others collide and the person addressed first needs time to process this.

The rage phase

This is followed by a phase in which the person being addressed attempts to assign blame to other people or certain circumstances. Self-reflection is not easy for everyone, so you quickly switch to defense and shift the responsibility away from yourself.

The resistance phase

This phase is probably the most difficult phase for the person who has expressed the feedback. The person is no longer looking for others to blame. Rather, he is now looking for reasons why certain things cannot be demanded of him.

The acceptance phase

Ideally, this is followed by the acceptance phase. The person being addressed understands that the feedback was in no way meant to be malicious or hurtful. He begins to reflect and realizes that his actions need improvement. Now the way is finally clear to move forward. It is important to give the person addressed time to reflect and not to put him under pressure.

Giving feedback with methods of the WWW rule

Another model we would like to mention at this point is the so-called "WWW rule". It makes it much easier for managers to give feedback in a way that no one feels criticized or personally attacked. Basically, it's about getting away from an accusatory sounding tone. The three W's stand for:

- perception

- impact

- desire

So you start by describing what you have observed. Then explain how the whole thing affects you and what the consequences are. Finally, you formulate a wish and describe how things should ideally continue in the future.

An insight into the science of feedback

The importance of paying more attention to the topic of feedback is shown by the Gallup Engagement Index from 2016. Just 45 % of employees surveyed had a conversation with their employer about their benefits in the past six months. Only 14 % reported talking about it regularly.

About a third of participating employees described the feedback they receive regarding their performance as constructive. So over 60 % receive no support through feedback and that is clearly too much. Thus, a lot of potential is lost.

This in turn confirms a Meta-analysis by Fred Luthans and Alexander D. Stajkovic, published in 1999, in which the two were able to show that constructive feedback increased the productivity of the test persons significantly more than a wage increase.

This is the best way to ask for feedback yourself

When was the last time you approached your employer yourself and asked for feedback? It's probably been a while, hasn't it? Yet it's so important to stay in the conversation, because that's the only way you can grow. Many people shy away from asking for feedback because they fear that, instead of constructive remarks criticism to harvest. Of course, points of criticism can be part of the feedback, but in addition, there are also suggestions for improvement, valuable tips and, of course, praise.

If you regularly ask for feedback, you will prevent yourself from developing in a completely wrong direction. But it's not just the question itself that's important, it's who you ask. Ask for feedback from someone who has the expertise to give you a qualified assessment. Asking the intern for an assessment makes little sense. It's better to ask a veteran with a lot of experience.

Of course, the feedback should be honest. Seek advice from someone who is not afraid to lay their cards on the table. Show the person you are addressing that you really care about their feedback and listen carefully. Afterwards, thank them for their time and openness. Afterwards, take your time to think about everything that has been mentioned and consider which suggestions you can implement.

Which Exercises for giving feedback are there?

Giving proper feedback is an important cornerstone on the road to success. Only if you are in regular communication with the rest of the team will you climb the career ladder with confidence. Professional and personal development are closely linked. Changing your life, getting involved in new things - these steps are harder than they look at first. 

You would like to acquire skills to advance in your current professional position? Or you can imagine using your existing experience to coach other people in business? Learn from our coaching experts Dr. Frederik Hümmeke and Alexander Müller how you can use a special business coaching method to achieve quick and targeted professional changes - for yourself and others. Take yourself and others to the next level professionally.

In the free webinar "How to become more successful business coach"we give you concrete tools & methods for your personal as well as professional success. With these you can already start tomorrow: 

  • Resolve conflicts
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  • Work more productively and efficiently

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