Coaches are used to giving feedback. They’re paid to provide feedback. When you put that dynamic into the workplace, however, it turns into an anxiety-filled, potential confrontation. Good feedback is easy to do for most managers. When it comes to negative feedback, however, everything changes.
The entire situation could go very poorly if you don’t say the right things. As a manager, you want to help your employees grow and advance their careers. But if you say the wrong thing or say the right things the wrong way, the employee could miss the entire point of your feedback. Worse, they may get upset, and the situation blows up for both of you.
There’s a way to frame your feedback by adding in a single word. A word that softens feedback and changes the way people receive it.
The Word That Makes Feedback Easier
It’s the word constructive. When you offer to give constructive feedback, it changes the tone for both you and the recipient. The word feedback makes most people nervous and sets them on edge right away. You can be the nicest boss in the world, but as soon as you ask, “Can I give you some feedback?” everyone is put on guard.
Insert the magic word and see how things change.
“Can I give you some constructive feedback?”
That single word, constructive, changes the way feedback is presented and received by people. It turns from a negative into a positive, maybe even helpful, idea.
Knowing that a single word like this can change how feedback is given and received is part of being emotionally intelligent.
Feedback Is About Emotional Intelligence
When you can identify, understand, and manage emotions better, your interactions with people become smoother and easier to handle. You can make emotions work for you instead of against you, in any situation, but especially when you have to give feedback. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a skill that anyone can learn but it should be mandatory for anyone in a leadership position.
Now, there will be some managers who will say they’re giving constructive feedback and then just dump all over employees. That’s not being emotionally intelligent about the exchange. They’re only using the word because someone told them to.
From an EQ perspective, feedback should be sincere and specific. Otherwise, it’s empty words. Leaders will feel useless delivering it, and recipients will ignore it because they’ll feel it doesn’t apply to them. Constructive feedback is not something to be done by rote or memory.
EQ Helps Build a Positive Work Environment for Feedback
EQ-friendly feedback should help build a psychologically safe culture in the organization for everyone. This type of environment encourages employees to feel safe to be themselves, take risks, offer new ideas, and make mistakes. It’s built on trust between employees, colleagues, and leaders, where everyone has your back and is on your side.
Sharing feedback is a part of life, and definitely a part of our work lives. We need feedback on how to improve so we can grow our skills, perspectives, and careers.
When you’ve created a safe work culture where people collaborate and help each other grow, giving constructive feedback is easier. Everyone’s already open to hearing from each other, and you’ve clearly established that your intent as a manager is to help. It’ll be easier to offer constructive feedback in these situations and know that it’ll be heard and received properly. Employees will be happy to hear it and eager to put it into practice.
You’re a boss that’s trying to help them improve and grow, not just point out all their shortfalls. You want employees to feel good about themselves and working for your organization. Giving constructive feedback can help you do that as you offer them value. It signals you’re someone who can make them better, which should be your number one priority as a business leader. So, the next time you’ve got to give feedback, add the word constructive to your request. It’ll change the whole tone of the conversation and make it one you both look forward to instead of dreading it.