Human Resources

How to Approach Constructive Feedback

Written by Clayton Reeves for Gaebler Ventures

We outline a very simple way to approach constructive feedback in the workplace. Follow this structure and your employees should be able to communicate much more efficiently.

Sometimes a business can have trouble approaching constructive feedback.

Criticism is not easy for anyone to take, and it can be a delicate situation when people disagree.

When it comes to harassment or something outside of regular work related disagreements, it can get even more sensitive. This could include sexual harassment, discrimination or stereotyping.

All of these things are hot topics, and there is a way to communicate in a work environment that can alleviate some of the stress related with these confrontations.

These can be used by your employees to resolve conflict in a polite way. If your workplace is rife with fighting employees and simmering discontent, or you need to give constructive criticism to some out-of-line employees, it will be well worth your time to master these techniques.

First, ask "When you..." and describe a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Make sure that you follow it with a straight statement that does not include any opinion. There should be no exaggeration, labeling or motives. This part of the process should simply include the facts as specifically as you can.

Next, use "It makes me feel..." to describe how the behavior makes you feel. This is where you can expand upon the emotions that are disrupting your productivity in the workplace. It can be as simple as joy, sorry, anger or fear. Expanding much more than that will generally confuse the situation. It is good to be as specific as possible when describing your feelings.

Third, say "Because I..." and then connect the facts with your emotions. This is where you can expand a little more on how the things they did evoked the emotions in you that they did. Let the other person respond to these, and make sure they understand the connection between their actions and your discomfort. This is key in the entire communication process.

Subsequently, say "I would like you to...because..." to describe the changes in the other person that you would like to see take place. These could be anything from a different approach to conversation to a simple apology. Then describe why you need them to do this. Perhaps they are making working more difficult for you and you need them to stop so you can increase your productivity.

Finally, ask "What do you think about that?" to see how the other person feels. Communication goes both ways, so it is important that you ask this final question to see how the other person feels. They may be taken aback and completely surprised that they had offended you. Hopefully, they will apologize and change their behavior. On the other hand, they may become confrontational and emotional. If it gets out of hand, it is best to walk away and pick up the conversation after tempers have cooled.

This is a basic framework to use when confronting people constructively. Following it will make you objectively list your reasons and take better look at the situation.

When he's not playing racquetball or studying for a class, Clayton Reeves enjoys writing articles about entrepreneurship. He is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri with a concentration in Economics and Finance.

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