Learning how to correctly give feedback as a manager, business owner or team leader is a vital skill in the workplace. Feedback, when given correctly, can make the workplace more efficient, effective, and more positive. Give feedback in the wrong way and it can destroy morale and cause conflict.

If you are teaching managers or owners how to give constructive feedback to employees, you can use this training activity as part of your workshop.

Constructive feedback at work activity

Starting the Training Activity

If you have not yet seen this slide from our Giving Feedback training course materials, you can see the slide below that is used for this activity.

At first, only show the title of the slide saying ‘Steps for Giving Constructive Feedback Effectively’ and then ask this question:

  • How would you go about giving constructive feedback?

Wait for answers.

After the participants have answered, show the points on the slide one by one and explain each point using the notes below the slide.

How to give constructuve feedback to employees
Slide from the Feedback Training Course Materials

1. Describe the Situation

The first step is to describe the situation, i.e., where and when the behavior happened, that you are giving feedback on.

It is useful for the recipient to anchor the behavior to a time and place, to remember it better.

For example, think of an employee who works for a marketing company and who produced and sent out printed materials with the wrong logo on them.

You can start by saying, ‘Amy, I would like to talk to you about the marketing materials that were sent out yesterday to Smith & Co.’

In this case, there is not a place that you can link the situation to but the time and the name of the customer provide enough details.

2. Describe the Behavior that Occurred

The next step is to describe what you observed. Remember though not to use inferences, but to just refer to observed behavior, providing as much detail as possible. In other words, stick to describing exactly what happened.

For example, ‘I noticed that those marketing materials had the wrong logo. The logo on the materials was the Blink Opticians’ logo, rather than Smith & Co’s logo.

‘The two are a bit similar but one is square and the other one is round’.

‘I understand that the number of materials we produce can be hard to manage and confusing, but I would like to hear your perspective on how that might have happened’.

If the behavior that you want to correct has happened repeatedly, provide more than one example so that the recipient understands the extent of the problem.

3. Explain the Impact Their Action Had

Office meeting

Next, you need to explain what impact their actions had.

This could be a practical impact, such as a financial loss for the company, or an emotional one, such as lowering the morale of the team or creating negative feelings for other people.

The feedback recipient may not be aware of the impact that their actions have, so it is worth explaining it to them.

Alternatively, you could ask the person what they think the impact of their actions is. This is a useful tactic if you aim to coach an employee and help them learn something, and to figure something out rather than being told can be a more effective way to learn.

Following on with our example, you could say to Amy, ‘The customer was quite upset when they received the materials with the wrong logo because they needed them urgently for an event.

So, your colleagues had to work extra time overnight to make sure that the correct materials were printed and sent to the customer on time.’

4. Listen to the reaction

As you explain the situation, the recipient will have a reaction. They might:

a) Acknowledge the problem

In this case, the employee is aware of the problem, is taking responsibility for it, and is ready to correct it. For example, Amy might say, ‘I am sorry about the issue. I have had problems operating the new software.

Can someone help me to understand it better so that the problem does not happen again in the future?’

b) Show confusion

The employee might not understand the problem. Maybe they never understood your expectations or the job description, or there was some misunderstanding.

Following on with our example, Amy might say ‘I’m sorry but I didn’t realize that it was the wrong logo. I was not given the correct logo for Smith & Co.’

In situations like this, the problem might not be entirely under the employee’s control, so you will need to clarify expectations or correct the error in communication.

c) Refuse to accept responsibility

This is when the recipients try to justify their position or blame someone else.

For example, Amy might say, ‘It was my subordinate’s fault for not checking’ (although Amy is responsible for double-checking that everything is ok).

In this case, you need to find out more about the situation to assess if there is something that is outside the employee’s control (and how you can support them) or if they are just making excuses.

5. Help Acknowledge or Clarify

If the recipient was confused or did not take responsibility, the next step is for you to clarify your expectations or help them acknowledge that there is a problem.

To help the recipient acknowledge the problem, you can stress the negative impact again or you can provide more evidence that their behavior needs to change.

Classroom lesson plans

6. Agree on Actions

Once the recipient acknowledges the problem, you want to work out together what can be done to solve the issue.

For example, to Amy, you can say, ‘What do you think we can do to avoid this mistake again in the future?’

Then you can set up together an action plan to move forward.

7. Confirm Understanding

Misunderstandings can happen, so it is always good practice to check that you and the recipient are both on the same page.

So, summarize the main outcomes of your discussion, ask the other person to repeat, and clarify if there are any misunderstandings.

8. End on a Positive Note

To end on a positive note, thank the other person for listening and for their efforts.

Feedback Training Course Materials
>> Feedback Training Course Materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono