There’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to give constructive feedback. It’s not the kind of thing you learned how to do in school, so a lot of people aren't skilled at this. What doesn't work:
- Say nothing and hope the other person figures it out for himself
- Repress your feelings for a long time, then blow up
- Attack the person by labeling and criticizing with something like, “You’re so sloppy. Why don’t clean up after yourself?”
When you give feedback the right way, you focus on the behavior, not the person. There’s a simple 4-step process that works well. It helps you stay calm and use language that makes it more likely the person will listen to your message.
1. Describe the behavior – What specifically is the person doing or not doing?
2. Share your reaction – how you feel about it
3. Explain the impact of their actions
4. State what you’d like this person to do in the future – what you want
So instead of saying:
“Sharon, that report was full of errors. Don’t ever turn in anything like that again.”
Try something like this:
“Sharon, the final report you turned in had several typos. I’m concerned because it leaves our clients with a bad impression about the quality of our work and they might decide to take their business somewhere else. Next time, please proofread the document carefully before you send it to me. Will you do that?”
Give the person a chance to respond and commit to making the change. If there are issues to discuss, you've increased the chances of both parties being honest and open. This approach strengthens your relationship with that individual and you can feel good about the way you handled the situation.
"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet (1749-1832)