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As a manager, there will be a time when you have to give feedback – both good and bad.

Constructive criticism is part and parcel of being a leader, although it is imperative you understand how to deliver the news to avoid offending or wasting a valuable teaching opportunity.

Start with the good and ease into the bad

No matter how bad someone’s performance may be, there is always something good to say about someone. Start with the positive to ease into the conversation and break the ice. Then you can progress into the more constructive criticism that may need to follow. Giving feedback can be awkward, but it can also be extremely tough if you are on the receiving end. It is important you make it as easy as possible on both of you.

Be specific with feedback

While generic compliments have their place in a business environment, if you intend to give constructive criticism then it has to be specific. The more precise it is, the more your team members can take the feedback on board. Vague feedback isn’t helpful under formal critiquing circumstances, particularly if you are just being ambiguous to avoid upsetting your staff. If you don’t like something, then let them know exactly what you dislike. Break it down so they can leave the meeting more educated and informed with a particular point or two to improve upon.

Make the comments actionable

If you want to help your team members improve their skills, provide them with actionable issues they can specifically build upon. Offer them situations to work on that fall under their level of responsibility and make it something you can both agree upon. If their KPIs are down, then give them an exact number to aim for. By giving them actual recommendations to work on, you are giving them something concrete to target. They can then go away and decide on the best course of action to improve their overall performance and meet those new goals.

Choose your words carefully

While what you have to say may be a little difficult, carefully selecting your words and making them less personal can help. Avoid using “you” as this can be associated with blame. Instead, use “we”, “I” or “me” which avoids singling out anybody and demonstrates you have their best interests at heart. Always focus on the overall situation rather than the individual, so they don’t feel like you are attacking them personally.

Keep it positive

Watch your tone of voice and always use phrases which are positive. This can sometimes be tricky as you can never really tell how someone is going to react to feedback, but, at least, it will allow you to start off on the right foot and give you a definite direction to head in. Poorly chosen words can have a detrimental effect on the entire conversation and your relationship at large.

If you struggle with performance management, delivering constructive criticism is one of the many customisable training courses we have on offer. If you have any enquiries regarding online membership or any of the other programs available, contact Glenise Anderson at SR Group by email on

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