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Characteristics of Good Constructive Feedback

Jun 11, 2008
We often confuse feedback with criticism - probably because much of our experience with it has had more to do with what we've done wrong than what we've done right or how we could do better.

This is unfortunate. Feedback should not be viewed as a personal assault or a list of errors, mistakes, or mishaps. It should be seen as an essential part of our (and others') ongoing professional and personal development and growth.

While the content of the feedback can be negative its delivery can always be constructive. If it's not, the feedback will not be accepted or could be received as an insult, which can ignite other issues and problems.

Constructive feedback is more useful and beneficial to the receiver because it provides encouragement, support, corrective measures and direction.

Definition of Feedback
The definition of feedback in organizations and business is ongoing, open two-way communication between two or more parties. Typically, feedback is given in annual performance reviews, but the best feedback is timely, honest, and provides useful comments and suggestions that contribute to a positive outcome, a better process or improved behaviours.

When delivered in a positive, constructive way, you can say something negative without offending or putting the other person on the defensive. At the same time, you help solve the problem or change behaviour and work towards established goals.

What are the Characteristics of Good Constructive Feedback?
Good constructive feedback is:
- given with the goal of improvement
- timely
- honest
- respectful
- clear
- issue-specific
- objective
- supportive
- motivating
- action-oriented
- solution-oriented.

On the Other Hand, What is Destructive Feedback?
Destructive feedback is
- unhelpful
- accusatory
- personal
- judgmental
- subjective.

It also
- undermines the self-esteem of the receiver
- leaves the issue unresolved
- the receiver is unsure how to proceed.

Why is it Important to Give Feedback?
To improve. The importance of feedback in an organization is crucial to its ongoing development and growth. In the competitive environment that businesses operate, constructive feedback is essential for continuous improvement.

Employers need to give effective, constructive feedback regularly, which is what most employees want. What employees look for in feedback from employers includes positive reinforcement and acknowledgment of a job well done as well as ideas or instructions on how to do their jobs better.

When feedback is offered in the spirit of improvement and is supportive and respectful, it is easier to give it as well as to receive it. While constructive feedback requires some thought and planning, it's a social skill that can be mastered by many.
About the Author
Laurie Wilhelm manages the Express Yourself to Success website, a one-stop e-source with information and techniques on interpersonal and social skills, public speaking, networking and conflict resolution. Achieve your success by working effectively with others. Find out how you can boost your career and get a free white paper, What Everyone Needs to Know About Social Skills, by going to www.expressyourselftosuccess.com.
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