Constructive Feedback

image from lucidchart.com

Giving feedback is a common way to tell someone about their performance. The purpose of feedback is to help someone becoming better or avoiding the same failures. It should not be used as a tool for attacking personal or listing mistakes.

Feedback can be positive (praise someone on what they’ve done well), negative (letting someone know about about things could be improved), or neutral (just an objective observation).

When the content is negative, the delivery should be always constructive.

Constructive feedback is providing comments or suggestions that contributes to a positive outcome, a better process or improved behaviours.

Writing a constructive feedback could be hard and here are some tips to do it:

DOs

  • Specific
    Constructive feedback should be specific or issue-focused rather than a value judgement about the individual.
  • Solutions over critics
    Don’t focusing on criticising. Brainstorm the solutions / ways that you think can help them to improve or avoid the mistakes / failures in future.
  • Fact over assumptions
    Give the fact or example behaviours to justify your feedback. Don’t give feedback based on assumptions or what you heard from others.
  • State the purpose
    Ensures the receiver received the purpose of the feedback and why it is important.
  • Private
    Ensures the feedback is private to them. Some people may feel humiliated if the feedback known by others.
  • Timely
    As mentioned above that feedback should be specific. The ideal time for giving the feedback would be immediately after the event passed so you don’t forget with the details as well.

DON’Ts

  • Futile feedback
    Don’t give feedback about the behaviour that can’t be changed.
  • Focus on the personal
    Feedback should not be focused on personality, it should focus on the action instead. Focusing on personality is counterproductive, accusatory, and can come as a personal attack.
  • Bad times
    Don’t give feedback during emotional conditions. For example, after production issue
  • Cut relationship
    Feedback shouldn’t be delivered in an appropriate manner that can end your relationship with others.
  • Opinions
    As mentioned above, give the fact or example behaviours to justify your feedback and not based on assumptions

Examples

  • What was said
    Your presentations are very confusing. We need you to write them better.”
    What it could be replaced with
    Your presentations aren’t as clear as we need them to be. Add concrete data to prove your point, and try using bulleted lists to make things easier to read.”
  • What was said
    You’re a very supportive person, please keep it up.”
    What it could be replaced with
    I’ve seen you supporting others outside your daily task. For example, you help Danny, an engineer from team X, to debug about redis cluster downtime and suggest solutions to avoid it in future. That was very nice of you, please keep it up.”
  • What was said
    You’re a very emotional person, we need you to change.”
    What it could be replaced with
    Andy, at the meeting this morning I noticed you getting defensive when your data was challenged during your presentation. When John asked a question about your calculations, you were short with him and told him he needs to trust that you know how to do your job. When you responded to him that way, he shut down for the rest of the meeting and seemed angry. You’re not working alone and will need his help. I would suggest for you to apologize to him and manage your emotions better in future.”

Software Engineer | Architect | Manager | A father of two

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