The Worst Types of Constructive Feedback

Feedback is essential, but how you give it will determine its effectiveness. Too often, we don’t think about the words we use when giving feedback, and we are more reactive than proactive. This lack of planning can cause disengagement, turnover, conflict, and decreased productivity. All consequences that can be avoided! If you want to ensure your feedback is genuinely constructive, avoid these types of constructive feedback.

  1. The sandwich method. There is a lot of criticism surrounding the sandwich method and rightly so. In theory, the sandwich method, positive – negative – positive feedback, sounds like it should be effective. However, by not getting to the point and fluffing up feedback when you may have something contradictory to say, undermines your credibility and trust.  The receiver will begin to doubt your intentions and the value of your positive comments. 
  2. Sugar-coating or not getting to the point. The more words, stories, metaphors, examples you use, the more likely the employee will be confused about what you are asking of them. This also has the opportunity to derail a feedback conversation into an entirely different topic that may not address what you actually scheduled a meeting to discuss. This is not to say to be so direct you forget that there is a human on the other side of the conversation, but it is to be direct about what you want them to do. 
  3. Comparison examples. Not all comparison examples are equal. It can be one thing to compare behavior to other departments, organizations, etc. to make a point but you must proceed with caution if you compare people, especially team members. You might think this is obvious, but it happens more than you think, and rather innocently. You may think you are telling Jill to look at Jack as a role model and an example of the desired behavior, but they may hear that you value Jack more. Using comparisons can create perceived favoritism towards others instead of the employee, causing them to disengage from the conversation.
  4. One-sided. You are not the only one in a feedback conversation. Just because you have a point of view, does not mean it is the only one. Give them a chance to respond to the information so you can gain greater insight into the problem. If it’s too one-sided, you may be missing other challenges that are impacting them that you could assist with, like adjusting a policy, talking to another team member that isn’t doing their work, etc.
  5. Overly negative. If you have a lot of negative feedback to unpack in a conversation, try to space it out, especially if you are trying to convey anything that could have a high emotional impact.
  6. “What I would have done.” What you may think is a teachable moment in the feedback conversation can be perceived as condescending. Try to avoid how you would have handled a situation unless they ask you or you fully understand their point of view. Don’t start a conversation saying, “Sarah, what you did was not great; what I would have done is….” Start the conversation by asking open-ended questions before determining your response. It shows people you are listening and trying to understand them.