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Employees with
Constructive Feedback

A good manager knows communication with employees is vital, especially when the goal is to change worker behavior. How you approach an employee about changing his or her behavior can be the key to making the change happen. One important way to institute a behavioral change in employees is to give them constructive feedback.

What is Constructive Feedback?
Constructive feedback is a tool to build things up, not tear things down. It can change behavior while still building the employee/supervisor relationship. It is a positive way to communicate change and a behavioral process that teaches real work skills like listening, giving feedback and conflict resolution. It also gives the supervisor a way to tell the employee about any new skill sets he or she will need to improve their performance.

In an environment where technology has become the norm for communicating and many times people do not know how to have a face-to-face conversation, constructive feedback is a vital step in the communication process. It is important to set the expectations with employees that communication with their managers should be face-to-face.

When to use Constructive Feedback
You can use constructive feedback to help direct the employee toward the goals of the job and put them back on track. A good time to use constructive feedback is during ongoing performance discussions when you also can give any pointers that will help the employee. This is also a good time to follow up on any coaching discussions you might have had with the employee.

Use constructive feedback when you need to give corrective guidance, if you need to guide someone back on track to a successful performance, or if you need to let an employee know of the consequences of their negative behaviors. It is also a great way to encourage someone to go in a new direction.

Dianne Prestridge, a risk control consultant with Gallagher Bassett Services, says while giving constructive feedback may not come naturally to everyone, as a manager one must continue trying until it becomes second nature. Only then will a manager become comfortable providing feedback to others.

According to Prestridge, there are six steps a manager should take when starting the creative feedback process with your employees:

  1. State the Purpose
    Clarifying the purpose of the feedback provides the focus necessary for the communication to be effective. The message should be timely and something for which you have prepared. Do not walk up to somebody and say you want to give them some constructive feedback. Put your thoughts together first.

    Do not give feedback when you or everyone else is busy, when you are angry, tired or when others are around. Giving constructive feedback is a private communication given with the proper respect to the employee. Ask yourself if this feedback helps this person or just "dumps" on them.

    Start the process with how the employee’s behavior impacts you as a manager.
    Say: "I have a concern," "I feel I need to let you know," "I have thoughts about ... "
    Don’t say:
    "This is the third time in a row you have come in late! What is wrong with you? Are you lazy?"
    "I want us to discuss your tardiness to work over the last three days."

    Put it in terms so that the employee will be more willing to accept what is coming next.

  2. Describe what you Observed
    Be specific with the facts and focus on direct observation. Do not include rumors such as "others have said you do this all the time." Follow what you yourself observed. The way you convey this step will help you keep on common ground with the employee because it focuses you on what you saw, not on hearsay. The employee cannot say they did not do something if you saw them do it.

    Keep it short and do not add issues. Don’t say: "I want to talk to you about your tardiness and also you haven’t been using your protective gloves." That just muddles the issue.

    Recognize that silence is consent. If you see an employee that needs to have feedback or change a behavior, by saying nothing, you are making them think it is OK. If you see Tom changing a light bulb by standing on a chair, say: "Tom, I’m concerned for your safety. I see you are using a chair instead of a ladder to change that light bulb."

  3. Describe your Reactions
    How does this make you feel? Come at it from your perspective. It helps people to understand the consequences of what they are doing and how their behavior might affect others. Going back to Tom, you might say, "Tom, this chair could break and you would fall. I don’t want to see you get hurt because you are an important part of our organization." This way, you are giving him the idea that there is a different perspective, and that what he is doing could affect others.

    TIP: When you are giving constructive feedback, you should be able to get from Step 1 to Step 3 in less than 60 seconds. If it takes any longer than this, you are probably trying to cover too much information or providing too much feedback.

  4. Give Opportunity to Respond
    This is the critical step to correct the misunderstanding and foster open communication. Give the employee the opportunity to either explain or respond to what was going on. Ask them questions: "What do you think?" "Does what I say make sense?" "What are your thoughts?"

    This will help to build self-esteem. Listen and be interested in what they are saying. Restate their thought if you had a misunderstanding to make sure you are on both the same page and hearing the same thing.

  5. Offer Suggestions
    Be specific. You must be able to provide a new way of doing things. Provide suggestions for improvement. Ask them if they have suggestions for improvement. Do not let them sidetrack you from correcting the behavior.

  6. Summarize and Express Support
    Clarify quickly the discussion and what the next steps will be. Have a target and follow through in a week or two to make sure the changes are taking effect. This is a way to check for misunderstandings. Leave on a positive note, i.e., "I know that you can do this."

Principles of Good Risk Managers
A good risk manager is also an effective manager of people. Keep these principles of smart risk managers in mind and use constructive feedback to make your workplace a safer, more productive environment for everyone.

  • No Tolerance - Create a workplace that does not allow or condone workplace wrongdoing.
  • Observation - Always be aware of what is going on around you and be willing to stop and address issues.
  • Communication - Ask yourself how involved you are with your employees. Do you have an open door policy? Do you listen? Do you address issues quickly? Do you treat your employees with respect?
  • Empathy - Do you treat employees as numbers or as individuals? Do you know their names and the names of their family members?
  • Fairness - Be uniform and consistent with the way you treat your employees. Do not play favorites.

Find out more about constructive feedback and effective management methods by listening to the on demand CBS webinar "Improving Behavior While Keeping the Spirit," featuring Dianne Prestridge.