How to give constructive feedback effectively?

min read
Down arrow button

Blog >

How to give constructive feedback effectively?

Assessing the work of others and expressing your opinions about their achievements is an important element of effective management and development. Feedback, or constructive input, plays an invaluable role in this regard. In this blog post, we will share knowledge with you about feedback, its functions, and methods of giving and receiving it.

What is feedback, and what are its functions?

Feedback is the process of providing information about the actions or results of an individual or a team. It has three main functions:

a) Motivational: Feedback can serve as a source of motivation. Positive evaluations of achievements and appreciation for effort can increase engagement and encourage the pursuit of even better results. This provides employees with information about whether the work they are doing is positively received and that they can continue to perform it in this manner.

"Great job! You handled that task very efficiently."

"Thanks for your dedication; it would have been difficult for me to understand this task without you."

"You did a fantastic job in the client meeting, showcasing that functionality really well, and the client was satisfied."

b) Corrective: When feedback points out errors or areas for improvement, it serves a corrective function. It helps prevent the repetition of the same mistakes in the future and enhances the quality of work. Its goal is to bring about changes in the way work is done. It is particularly important to provide feedback in a constructive manner, discussing expectations and addressing the issue directly.

"I'm concerned that your productivity has decreased lately. Can we brainstorm together to help you work more efficiently?"

c) Stabilizing: Feedback can help maintain the level of quality or achieved results. Regular monitoring of progress allows for the continuation of a stable course of action. Often, good behavior goes unnoticed, and employees may simply stop making an effort. If we observe any deviations in the wrong direction, they can be corrected immediately.

"Your report for the client was excellent, but in the future, please remember to check if it is in the correct company template."

Feedback provides valuable information about our actions and behaviors. Through it, we learn where our strengths lie and where we can improve. This gives us an opportunity for competence and skill development. Constructive feedback can help identify areas that require attention and work, contributing to our professional development.

Methods of providing feedback

There are various methods of providing feedback. Here are three popular ones:

The FECE Method (Facts, Emotions, Consequences, Expectations)

This method is based on clearly communicating the facts about actions or behaviors, expressing feelings related to them, discussing the consequences of these actions, and stating expectations for future behavior.

  1. Facts: Begin the feedback with specific facts and observations. Avoid generalizations and personal judgments. It is essential to focus on what you precisely noticed when the person performed a particular action. Ensure that the person receiving feedback understands the specific situation. For example, you can say, "Today at the project meeting, you delivered the report 30 minutes late."
  2. Feelings: Next, express your feelings or emotions related to these facts. Remember to speak about your feelings openly and honestly. For example, you can say, "When you delivered the report late, I felt concerned."
  3. Consequences: Discuss the consequences of the observed behavior or action. What were the effects of a specific action on others or the project? For example, "Due to the delayed report, we had to accelerate work on the project, leading to chaos and additional stress."
  4. Expectations: Conclude the feedback by expressing your expectations for the person receiving feedback. It is important to specify the steps or changes that should occur in the future. For example, "I expect that in the future, we will adhere to report delivery deadlines to avoid such situations."
Diagram illustrating the FECE method

The FECE method helps avoid personal judgments and focuses on observations and specific behaviors. This makes the feedback more objective and constructive. It is particularly important when we want to provide feedback that contributes to the development and improvement of others' actions, rather than just expressing our frustration or dissatisfaction.

The Sandwich Method (sometimes also called the Sandwich Model)

is a popular technique for providing feedback in a constructive and gentle manner. This method is often used to deliver feedback that combines positive and negative elements while maintaining delicacy and understanding. The name "sandwich" refers to the resemblance to assembling a sandwich, where the critical content is "sandwiched" between two layers of positive feedback. Here's how the Sandwich Method works:

Positive layer: Start the feedback with a positive aspect you want to emphasize. This could be commendable remarks about the individual's achievements, skills, or attitude. This allows for building initial trust and serves as motivation for further improvement.

Critical layer: Next, move on to the critical content. Specify what needs improvement or was unsatisfactory. Focus on specifics and behaviors, avoiding personal judgments. Describe how these areas can impact goals or the team.

Second positive layer: In conclusion, reiterate positive feedback. Emphasize that you still believe in the individual's potential and that you are willing to support them in the improvement process. This is aimed at ending the feedback on an optimistic note and reiterating the value and trust.

Example of applying the Sandwich Method in feedback:

- Positive layer: "I truly appreciate your dedication to the project. Your creativity and initiative have brought many benefits."

- Critical layer: "However, I've noticed that lately, you've had difficulties meeting deadlines, which has affected the project schedule."

- Second positive layer: "I know you have the potential to continue developing your time management skills, and I'm confident you can improve. Your contribution is highly valued."

The Sandwich Method helps maintain a balance between constructive criticism and positive support. It is a useful tool in situations where we want to provide feedback that motivates improvement while respecting the feelings and dignity of the recipient.

The Start-Stop-Continue Method

In this method, specific suggestions are made for things a person should start doing (start), things they should stop doing (stop), and things they should continue doing (continue). This method is a simple and effective tool for providing feedback. It is particularly useful in the context of evaluating actions or behaviors and in the process of self-improvement or improvement of others. This method is based on three key questions:

Start: This is the point where you identify behaviors or actions that you would like the person to continue or initiate. You describe specific aspects that are worth starting or have been started correctly. This could be praise for achievements or behaviors you want to highlight.

Stop: At this stage, you focus on identifying behaviors or actions that should be discontinued or avoided. You emphasize specific elements that do not yield positive results or are harmful. This is an area that requires correction.

Continue: You point out what the person is already doing well and should continue. It could be a behavior that brings positive results or a valuable skill that should be further developed.

Example of using the "Start-Stop-Continue" method in feedback:

- Start: "I would like you to continue working on this project because your initiative and ideas truly add value to it."

- Stop: "However, I've noticed that sometimes you are too chaotic in organizing your tasks, which has affected the deadlines for delivering reports. It would be beneficial for you to focus more on time management."

- Continue: "I'm impressed with your dedication and teamwork on this project. Keep it up!"

The "Start-Stop-Continue" method is useful because it is simple, specific, and easy to understand. It helps balance positive feedback with areas for improvement and provides clear guidance on steps that can be taken to achieve better results. It is an effective way to constructively provide feedback and support personal or professional development.

How to give and how to receive feedback

Giving Feedback:

  1. Be constructive - Regardless of whether you are providing positive or negative feedback, focus on constructive aspects. Instead of criticizing, suggest ways to improve. It's a good idea to guide the person receiving feedback towards appropriate solutions.
  2. Focus on facts - Base your messages on specific observations and data. Avoid generalizations and personal judgments.
  3. Choose the right moment - Select an appropriate time and place to deliver feedback. Ensure you are in a calm and private environment.
  4. Be honest and open - Provide feedback in an honest and open manner. Avoid ambiguity and manipulation. Remember that honest feedback is the most valuable.

Receiving Feedback:

  1. Be open to feedback - Be ready to receive feedback from others. Don't perceive it as an attack but as an opportunity for development.
  2. Listen attentively - Listen carefully when someone is giving you feedback. Avoid defense or explanations of your behavior. Just listen.
  3. Ask for clarification - If the feedback seems unclear or you're unsure what specifically to change, ask for clarification. Inquire about the sender's intentions and steps you can take.
  4. Reflect on the feedback - After receiving feedback, reflect on it. Analyze what you can improve and what steps you can take to achieve better results.

It's worth noting that effective feedback must be constructive, honest, and tailored to the needs and individual preferences of the recipient. Inappropriately tailored feedback can be demotivating or lead to frustration. Therefore, it is important for both the giver and receiver of feedback to consider its motivational function and focus on building positive relationships and development.

About The Author
Izabela Węgrecka

Izabela is a Project Manager and Scrum Master with 6 years of experience in the IT industry. She has experience in leading diverse projects and effectively managing teams. She's a leader with the ability to create cohesive and efficient teams based on Scrum values. Regardless of the project's scale, she's able to establish a dynamic environment where collaboration, innovation, and delivering valuable products take precedence.