How to give critical feedback effectively and its importance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Praise and constructive criticism help to develop and improve employee performance. At work, managers use critical feedback to improve the standard of work by creating an atmosphere that nurtures growth and support. If you're a manager or employer, learning how to give critical feedback effectively can help improve employees' overall productivity. In this article, we discuss what critical feedback is, why it's important, how to give it effectively and tips for providing valuable feedback.

What is critical feedback?

Managers use critical feedback to help attain positive outcomes by providing an individual with comments, advice, critiques or suggestions appropriate for their life, work or future. Well-delivered feedback is a useful tool in the workplace. It helps create a healthy work environment, influence communication, build loyalty, boost productivity, increase engagement and yield better results.

Critical feedback can come in different forms. Sometimes employers deliver this as praise or criticism. Feedback is likely to be more effective if it focuses on the work rather than being a personal attack against the individual. Its outcome can help improve behaviour, provide new perspectives, identify weaknesses and speed up processes.

Read more: How to give constructive feedback at work (with examples)

How to give critical feedback effectively

When looking at how to give critical feedback effectively, it's important to realise its benefit to the development and performance of an individual. Here are some ways to give feedback productively and respectfully:

1. Establish trust

If you're a supervisor or manager, it's good to establish a trusting and open relationship with your colleagues. Because of your role, you may sometimes give feedback to employees or team members. Establishing a baseline of trust could help improve your communication, make it easier to deliver feedback and help employees accept it and put it to use.

People find it easier to accept criticism from someone they believe is acting in their best interests. So, you want them to understand that you recognise their skills, believe in their potential and appreciate their work, helping them see your feedback as constructive. They would be open and receptive, making such communication easier and more productive in the future.

Related: 12 Great Pieces of Advice on How to Give Feedback

2. Balance the positive and the negative

It's good to balance perspective when delivering constructive criticism, whether it's negative or positive feedback. For positive feedback, try giving the person something to work on to help them meet their potential. For instance, you can say, 'Have you thought about adding the information from A or elaborating more on C to make the PowerPoint presentation more educational?'. It's also important to tell them what made the work good.

Being honest and helpful and highlighting the good points when giving feedback on areas for improvement is important, as this would help the individual become more receptive. For example, you can start by telling the person how impressed you were with their past work and how you believe they can improve on a particular task. Be truthful by telling them their weaknesses and then allow the positive remarks to act as a means of motivation.

Read more: Positive feedback: why it's important and how to give it

3. Observe without interpreting

When giving constructive feedback, try to observe and not interpret things. It's important that you don't assign meaning to a person's action without hearing their opinion. You can present the problem as your observations and then give the person the chance to explain it from their viewpoint.

4. Be specific

Good constructive feedback tries to focus on specifics. Telling someone that their work is good and making comments that show you took time to observe their work makes them understand that you genuinely appreciate them. This can help them realise what you expect and encourage them to work towards that goal. Telling someone that their work needs improvement and then providing details on what they can do to make that improvement helps stop them from becoming frustrated.

5. Talk face-to-face

It's better to deliver critical feedback in face-to-face meetings than through phone calls, instant messenger or email. While it's easier to interpret body language, vocal tones and emotional reflection during face-to-face meetings, other methods may not allow these expressions. A face-to-face talk is more interactive and dynamic as both parties can discuss the issue in greater detail.

6. Don't make it personal

When delivering constructive criticism, it's important that you differentiate the person from their actions. For instance, advise someone of the improvements they could have made in their design and tell them to take more time in the future. Making the person understand it's a not personal attack helps keep them positive and motivated.

7. Provide feedback consistently

It's advisable to deliver feedback regularly because this can build trust. This means that both the employer or supervisor and the employee can agree on performance and expectations. As a result, the employee is likely to be more receptive to the feedback.

8. Be timely

It's good practice to give feedback to someone when they're still learning a task. Giving feedback when it's still fresh in your mind and the employee's mind helps ensure it remains relevant to the task and for future reference.

Tips for giving effective feedback

Here are four key tips that can help you give effective feedback:

Intention

It's important to recognise the intention behind your feedback. Know why you're giving the feedback by asking yourself questions such as:

  • Do I have any conscious or unconscious bias?

  • Do I want to control the situation or for them to take ownership?

  • Do I really want them to become successful?

Being honest with yourself can help deliver successful feedback. When your intentions are genuine, it's more likely to reflect in the questions you ask, your body language and your tone of voice. Focussing on making these things positive increases the chance of them receiving your feedback positively.

Related: A guide to 360 feedback questions (with example questions)

Permission

It's crucial that you plan your feedback. Feedback is easier to accept when both parties have agreed to the session. Planning and agreeing to feedback sessions show your employee that you value and respect their point of view. This makes constructive feedback seem less judgmental and the receiver more receptive to what you want to say.

Skill

Constructive feedback can be challenging to both the giver and the recipient. It requires commitment, attention to detail, awareness and courage. Feedback is a skill that supervisors or managers can improve with experience and practice. The more they give feedback, the more they can develop the skill of delivering constructive feedback.

Relationship

Having a good relationship with the receiver of the feedback is an important aspect of effective feedback. Therefore, creating genuine and strong relationships is key to giving successful feedback. Also, consider the relationship you have with the recipient before providing the feedback, to ensure your delivery mirrors the relationship the two of you have.

Why is feedback important?

Below are some reasons critical feedback is especially important:

Motivate people

Properly delivered constructive feedback follows a friendly approach. It praises the things done well besides pointing out areas needing improvement and making constructive suggestions. This helps make the receiver feel valued and motivated.

Promote growth

Feedback helps people realise their potential. It highlights and appreciates the positive while giving advice and suggestions on how they can improve weaker areas. This allows the receiver to gain an insight into ways they may improve their future performance.

Build trust

Critical feedback encourages relationship building and helps enhance communication. When employers deliver feedback, they improve the bond between the receiver and the supervisor. Knowing that a manager values and cares about them builds trust, and makes it more likely for them to accept the feedback positively, knowing that both parties are looking for ways to maximise their potential.

Enhance productivity

A significant advantage of critical feedback is that it helps individuals know their weaknesses and think about how they can improve. This encourages them to learn more quickly and become better at what they do. Feedback helps them share their opinions and ideas, which soon translate to various concepts they can apply and contribute to the organisation's productivity.

Related: 10 strategies for getting feedback from your team at work

Promote effective collaboration

Another benefit of feedback is that it ensures a better working relationship. So, when individuals learn to give constructive feedback, they become more open as they share observations that could benefit their peers. Therefore, constructive feedback strengthens relationships through empathy and mutual respect, making the team more efficient.

Related:

  • Why Critical Thinking Is Important Plus Definition and Tips


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