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How to give constructive criticism to your employees

DJ Waldow 6 min read
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Every leader in every organization should be providing feedback to their team — both in the form of compliments and praise AND by giving constructive criticism.

The key word … constructive.

Today’s employees thrive on direct, meaningful, constructive feedback.

It’s easy to hit send on a “great job” email or give workers a quick thumbs-up via Slack. However, feedback that positively impacts an employee’s performance requires a conscious effort.

To promote productivity and a healthy company culture, managers must understand the importance of constructive feedback and how to convey it to their teams effectively.

This article will discuss why constructive criticism is so important, share 5 tips for providing that feedback, and touch on how can help.

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Why does constructive criticism matter?

Well, first off, most managers are not providing constructive criticism at all. If they are, it’s minimal and likely poor.

That’s not just us pontificating — it’s backed by data.

According to Gallup’s research, most employees receive minimal meaningful feedback from their managers.

Whether it’s too vague or infrequent, poor feedback results in disengaged employees and high turnover rates in the workplace.

In fact, 24% of workers would consider leaving their jobs if their higher-ups provided inadequate feedback. Eeks.

This makes perfect sense, though. If workers don’t feel they’re getting adequate recognition or praise, they may feel more valued elsewhere.

Conversely, struggling employees can’t correct their behavior unless they know what they’re doing wrong.

Consistent and constructive criticism is key to avoiding these setbacks. That’s precisely why managers should rethink their approach to communicating praise and criticism to their teams.

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5 tips for providing constructive criticism to employees

Let’s say you acknowledge your approach to feedback might need some … fine-tuning.

You are not alone.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure that you’re getting the right message across.

1. Frame feedback as a net positive

Despite popular belief, managers don’t need to tiptoe around criticizing their employees.

92% of employees agree that negative feedback can encourage them to improve their performance.

But … that feedback needs to be framed appropriately.

Playing “bad cop” and berating your employees isn’t effective and can be harmful. On the flip side, being too friendly or cheery might send mixed signals.

Remember: if your employees need to make a change, you must be explicit about it for their and your own sake.

Here are some examples of how legitimate criticism can be framed as positive, constructive feedback.

 Positive Framing Negative Framing
  • “I’d really like to see you…”
  • “I think you’re off to a good start. However, I think there’s room for improvement…”
  • “Listen: you’re part of this team, and we appreciate your effort. That said, I’ve noticed that…”
  • “I really need you to…”
  • “To be honest, I’m not really sure what you’re trying to do here…”
  • “You’re not pulling your weight around here compared to the rest of the team….”


The takeaway: feedback should be framed as goal-setting that will benefit your employee AND the organization. Considering 70% of workers say they’d work harder if their efforts were recognized, positivity definitely makes a difference.

Feedback Tips

2. Provide context to the feedback and criticism (be specific!)

Vague, wishy-washy feedback will not work, especially when making critical comments to someone on your team.

Instead, provide context to what needs improvement and detail why you’re having a conversation in the first place.

Critical Example: “I’m concerned about the amount of missed deadlines from last month. I want to figure out what we can do to get things back on track.”

Praise Example: “Based on our data from last quarter and current sales quotas, you’re knocking it out of the park.”

The good news? It’s easier than ever to track performance and find talking points for performance reviews and feedback sessions. This includes data from your CRM or team management tools (like

Since only 60% of workers understand what’s expected of them at work, it’s crucial to review employee data regularly and highlight expectations so nobody’s ever blindsided during a feedback session.

3. Don’t bog feedback down with too much commentary (be brief!)

No surprises here. Short and to-the-point feedback is preferred.

Conventional wisdom tells us that shorter meetings are more effective for retaining information and conveying goals face-to-face.

Shorter is not an invitation to be cold or impersonal but rather to ensure conversations don’t stray too far from the feedback you’re trying to convey. Doing so will give your workers a single goal to focus on rather than a daunting list of tasks.

There’s nothing wrong with being straightforward (“This is what I need you to work on…”) as long as you keep your overall conversation positive.

4. Be mindful of timing

There’s a big difference between a passing “good job” and meaningful, constructive criticism.

The former can be done at random in a matter of seconds. The latter, your employees should be prepared and expect feedback in advance.

Planning a feedback session in advance makes employees more accountable for listening. Additionally, they’ll have the opportunity to prepare their own points and review their data ahead of time.

Pro Tip: Give employees feedback consistently and frequently to become more familiar and comfortable with you and your leadership style.

Many companies strive to provide employees with monthly feedback versus quarterly performance reviews. More frequent feedback means more meetings, but it also means problems among employees are less likely to snowball out of control.

5. Be open to feedback yourself

Lastly, it’s important to understand the concept of listening as a leadership tool.

Allowing workers to speak their minds shows empathy. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being talked at, and let’s be honest: no manager is perfect, either.

Making yourself open to employee comments will make your own constructive criticism more meaningful in the long run.

Let your employees know they can always reach you via email or Slack (or text or phone) if they need to share something. Additionally, anonymous feedback tools like TinyPulse can be used to pick your team’s brains without anyone having to worry about repercussions.

How are you providing constructive criticism to your team?

Today’s employee craves constructive criticism.

Likewise, managers are expected to provide feedback that empowers and builds employees up rather than tearing them down.

By sticking to the principles above, you can have meaningful conversations with your team that result in positive returns.

Oh, and don’t forget how tools like can help create tighter-knit teams within your company.

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DJ is a freelance writer specializing in all things words. He's a father of 4 (including twins), husband to one, and an alum of the University of Michigan. DJ is a self-proclaimed giphy master and #HashtagAddict.
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