When providing feedback to an employee, it’s important to remember that the employee will take the comments in the context of their relationship with HR. If HR has a good relationship with the employee, they are more likely to listen and accept the feedback as an act of support rather than criticism.
If the relationship with them is hampered or there are personal issues between HR and the employee, the feedback may be misinterpreted or might lead to resentment and defensiveness from the employee’s side. It’s not easy giving or receiving feedback at work, and sometimes it is even harder to provide constructive feedback. Negative feedback can be tricky, especially when HR doesn’t know how to give it correctly.
No one wants to be on the receiving end of criticism, but to learn and improve, accepting that feedback with an open mind and heart is important. Here are 10 constructive feedback examples that will help you make those difficult conversations less stressful for everyone involved.
Regular check-ins with your employees are important to ensure they meet your expectations. If employee performance is not satisfactory, convey it to them directly. This way, they can take steps to improve their work. Here are some constructive feedback examples you can use:
I noticed that you didn’t complete the project on time. What can we do to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future?
I noticed that you have difficulty completing tasks independently. Can we set up a meeting so I can help you?
I noticed that you’re not following the company’s dress code. Please ensure you adhere to the dress code in the future. We want our customers to feel confident and respected when they visit our store.
I was disappointed by how you handled this customer complaint. In the future, please be more tactful and calm down before speaking with the customer again.
2. Check in with your employees regularly
As an HR professional, it’s important to check in with your employees regularly. This helps you get a pulse on how they’re feeling and how they’re doing in their role. Moreover, it shows that you care about their well-being and want to help them succeed. Take a look at some examples you can use to help with those difficult conversations:
What did you think of our most recent team meeting?
I noticed during our last meeting, when we were talking about the project, that you seemed distracted or not as engaged as usual.
Is there anything going on at home right now that might be impacting your work?
I have seen some things recently where I feel like there may be some challenges in our relationship because of X. Do you feel the same way?
There has been talking around the office about the XYZ project; what is your perspective on this issue?
3. Good communication with employees
It’s important to make sure your employees understand how they’re doing regularly. This way, they can correct if necessary and always be aware of how their performance affects the company. Here are some examples you can use next time you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee:
I’ve noticed that there have been more mistakes in your work lately.
I’ve noticed that it seems like you haven’t been putting in as much effort recently.
It seems like you’re distracted from work these days.
I noticed that when we discussed X topic, it didn’t seem like you care about our opinion on the matter.
You seem to be stressed a lot more than usual lately.
Do you want to talk about what’s going on?
4. Consider the big picture
It’s important to give feedback that is both specific and meaningful. However, it’s also important to have the big picture in mind. Feedback should help an individual understand how their behavior affects the team or company as a whole. Here are examples of constructive feedback that can help with those difficult conversations.
‘It would be helpful if you could….’. The most effective type of feedback gives clear instructions on what the person needs to do to improve. If someone has been missing deadlines, it might be helpful for them to know they need to work more quickly for things not to pile up.
What would happen if you didn’t do this? Feedback should also offer insight into what will happen if certain behaviors continue. Let the employees know that the organization loses clients because they aren’t keeping them updated on changes and they will ensure that this does not happen again.
You may want to try….’. If a person does not follow proper procedure, it may be beneficial to let them know there are different ways of completing tasks, but one way may produce better results than others.
You seem stressed lately – is everything okay? Recognizing when someone seems distressed and offering support shows empathy, something every employee appreciates from time to time.
You missed our deadline by three days – what happened? Some situations warrant harsher criticism than others (and so this sentence should only be used in extreme cases). In some instances, providing support after negative feedback is necessary so the individual knows they haven’t been abandoned during hard times.
5. Praise good work
Providing positive feedback is one of the most important things you can do as an HR professional. It allows employees to know that their good work is noticed and appreciated. Moreover, it can help motivate them to continue doing their best. Here are some constructive feedback examples you can use to help with those difficult conversations:
I’ve been noticing some improvement in your performance lately. Keep up the great work!
Thank you for all your hard work on this project. You did a really good job!
Thanks for putting effort into that project; it looks great!
I think we should review your performance more closely to see if there are any ways we can improve your skills further. What would be a better time for us to meet?
You did such a great job on this project!
6. Give specific feedback on the issue at hand
When an employee is not meeting expectations, a conversation about what needs to change is important. However, these conversations can be difficult. Here are some constructive feedback examples you can use the next time you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee.
I noticed that you didn’t complete the project by the deadline.
I noticed that you were constantly on your phone during work hours.
I noticed that you didn’t seem very engaged in the team meeting.
I noticed that you didn’t follow through on your promise to help with the event.
I noticed that you often come late for work or left early without telling anyone.
I noticed that when we had our one-on-one meeting, you seemed distracted and uninterested in the conversation we were having.
You’ve been there before. You’re in the middle of a difficult conversation with an employee, and you can tell that it’s not going anywhere. The employee isn’t receptive to your feedback, and you’re not getting through to them. So what do you do? You might be tempted to give up and call it a day – but don’t!
There are many times when this is the best course of action. However, if you’re feeling as though there’s some traction happening with this employee – that they understand where they went wrong – then keep going! Keep being constructive in your feedback. If you give up on one difficult conversation, another one is just around the corner waiting for you.
And most importantly, these conversations make a huge difference. They help your employees grow and improve themselves, so it’s worth taking time out of your busy schedule to have them.
8. Use a positive tone of voice and body language
It’s important to use a positive tone of voice and body language when giving feedback, even if the feedback itself is negative. This will help the person receiving the feedback feel like you’re on their side and that you’re trying to help them improve. Here are some specific examples of how to do this:
Say ‘I see’ when they finish talking.
Lean in towards the person so they know you’re listening intently.
Avoid crossing your arms or turning away from them while they speak; it might make them think you don’t care about what they have to say.
Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation.
Nod your head to let them know you understand what they said and let out small verbal cues to show interest in what they’re saying.
9. Stay calm and let your employee respond to you
When you’re the one delivering the feedback, it’s important to stay calm. This can be difficult, especially if the situation is heated, but it’s important to remain level-headed. Allow your employee to respond to you after you’ve delivered the feedback. They may have questions or want to discuss the situation further.
Remember that they might feel like they’re in the hot seat and will need time to process what was said. Try not to interrupt them or cut them off. If you feel like they are getting upset, let them know that there will be a time for discussion later on. Giving this type of reassurance might help defuse some of their anxiety and frustration with the conversation. You could even say something like, ‘We’ll get back to this point in a few minutes, I just wanted to cover these points first.’ It’s also good practice to remember why you’re delivering the feedback at all.
Were they doing something that made things harder for other people? The goal of constructive feedback is not punishment; it’s about helping someone learn from their mistakes so they can do better next time. The purpose of constructive criticism should always be about creating positive change rather than just pointing out how bad someone has been.
10. Choose an appropriate time for the conversation
It’s important to have these timely conversations with employees. If you wait too long, the employee may not even remember what they did wrong. You also don’t want to have a conversation when emotions are running high. Choose a time when both you and the employee are calm and can have a productive discussion.
You should set aside enough time for the conversation and be prepared with examples of specific incidents that show how their behaviors were inappropriate. Share how those behaviors negatively impacted others or negatively affected your ability to do your job. Ask for an example of a time when they handled themselves well in this situation so that you can give them constructive feedback on how they should handle similar situations in the future.
Provide clear instructions about what would constitute appropriate behavior moving forward and set boundaries. Follow up: check back in with the employee within a week or two to discuss whether they’ve followed through on the agreed-upon changes. If there’s been no change, share what will happen if things don’t improve. End by providing support: Let them know that it’s difficult to change old habits but they need to work on being more effective at accomplishing their goals, which is why this conversation is happening now.
We have discussed the 10 constructive feedback examples to help with those difficult conversations for HR professionals in this article. Every HR professional and manager has had to have a challenging conversation with an employee at some point in time. It could be during one’s annual review, or else it could happen before one is terminated from the company. Regardless of what time of year it might be, caution needs to be taken so that mistakes don’t happen to them. Otherwise, difficult conversations might turn into expensive legal battles within seconds.
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Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.