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Constructive vs. Destructive Feedback: Examples + Template

Learn about constructive and destructive feedback and use this free template the next time you’re leading a conversation around feedback.

By Mara Calvello  •   April 25, 2023  •   7 min read

When it comes to working in a professional setting with others, feedback is a required element for discussing how a team member or colleague is performing. Getting constructive feedback and giving it to others isn’t always easy, but both should be mastered for continued growth. 

Since no one is perfect, constructive feedback is essential to share amongst teams and employees, especially when working towards a shared goal. Conversations focused on this type of criticism are often necessary when you notice someone’s performance is slipping or their behavior towards their job has veered negatively.

To give this feedback correctly, understanding how constructive feedback is different from destructive feedback is crucial—especially in the workplace. Let’s break it all down.

What is constructive feedback? 

Constructive feedback is a form of criticism that uplifts, offers suggestions, and even provides possible solutions, while building on the individual’s abilities and strengths. The feedback details the negative and positive aspects of a person’s work or performance and suggests ways to improve going forward.

The speaker keeps in mind that they should remain objective, incorporate elements of emotional intelligence, and motivate others to work harder. It’s important to remember that constructive feedback doesn’t necessarily mean positive feedback, as negative feedback will likely be included, too. It’s all about the phrasing!

What is destructive feedback?

Destructive feedback is a form of criticism that tears down someone’s confidence and makes them feel bad about their work. It focuses on upsetting and ridiculing another team member and belittling their efforts, which will decrease morale and performance over time. 

Since no good intentions are associated with destructive feedback, it’s always better to give constructive feedback, no matter the situation. Giving a team member constructive feedback will uplift their morale and improve performance, while destructive feedback cuts someone down, hurts their feelings, is derogatory, and often mocks failure. Ultimately, providing destructive feedback can create a hostile work environment and could lower retention.

Give and get feedback as work happens

A healthy and strong culture starts with feedback. Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance.

Benefits of constructive feedback 

There are several benefits to choosing to give team members constructive feedback.

  • Promotes a better company culture:  Sharing opinions of each other’s work and performance respectfully and helpfully creates a workplace environment of mutual respect and concern for progress. This inspires a company culture where team members are relaxed, are open to sharing new and diverse ideas, and can collaborate more effectively.
  • Encourages employee growth: Everyone wants the chance to grow in their career, and with constructive feedback, employees can discuss what went wrong in a project or with someone’s work. Providing constructive criticism also involves suggesting how to improve for next time. Learning from mistakes and knowing what to work on in the future inspires and encourages growth.
  • Shows employees a new perspective: You may have an employee within your department who comes off as invincible, like they can do no wrong. Having a conversation that leans into constructive criticism can show this individual how their work and attitude come across from a new angle.
  • Increases productivity: Team members who give one another constructive feedback help one another know what is wrong with their work, allowing them to learn faster and easily come up with solutions. And since everyone feels supported when sharing ideas and opinions, the team will have more unique ideas to go off of. This feedback allows the team to work in a thriving, productive environment.

How to give constructive feedback

Are you ready to start giving your team constructive feedback but unsure how to go about it? Keep these five steps in mind as you have a constructive conversation.

1Ask questions

It’s easy to assume why a person acted a certain way, what their actions mean, or why they went about a project a certain way. Instead of assuming, ask! They may be experiencing a challenge or interpreting a scenario differently than you. The more information you have about a specific instance before offering feedback, the better.

For example, don’t assume someone was late to a meeting because they’re lazy or can’t be bothered to show up on time! Ask if something came up or if a different meeting time would work better for their schedule next time.

2Be timely

When giving a team member feedback, it’s always best to be timely. Providing advice and constructive criticism immediately after a person has completed a task or project makes it easier for them to understand what to do differently next time. This is especially important if this same team member has already started a new project—giving feedback right away saves them from making the same mistakes, needing to backtrack, and losing time.  

3Encourage open communication

Having open communication with employees and team members helps establish a safe and supportive working environment. It ensures everyone on both sides of the conversation is comfortable speaking and sharing their thoughts and opinions, especially when they’re facing challenges. 

A great way to have open communication at all times, and not just when sharing feedback, is by taking collaborative meeting notes about feedback on a collaborative agenda. Being able to collaborate on meeting agendas and talking points while requesting feedback from meeting attendees will encourage open communication during and after meetings. This will ensure everyone is used to this type of communication, and it will hopefully roll over to constructive feedback, too.

4Provide specific examples

No one likes vague feedback or suggestions—they’re simply not helpful. When giving constructive feedback to a peer, be as specific as possible about areas of improvement or correction. This makes it easier for them to know what to focus on or what to do differently next time.

For example, if your team member is consistently missing deadlines, come to the conversation prepared with a list of examples of deadlines that have been missed.

5Meet in person

If possible, meeting in person is the best way to give constructive feedback. When this type of feedback is given over email or in a direct message, there’s often a risk of miscommunication. Meeting in person allows the recipient to feed off of body language, facial expressions, and other social cues that make hearing feedback easier.

How to give constructive feedback with Fellow

Fellow is a great tool to use when you’re looking to give constructive feedback.

For starters, Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance. Providing this feedback is how you get your team to thrive and create a culture where giving, receiving, and implementing feedback is common.

For instance, Fellow asks users to outline what their coworkers are doing well, note what they should continue doing, rate their last few months, and discuss how much they enjoy working with this team member.

Plus, Fellow’s Chrome extension allows users to give feedback easily on a collaborative agenda when working remotely.

Examples of constructive and destructive feedback

Sometimes it’s best to learn from example! Below are some examples of constructive and destructive feedback in the workplace.

Constructive feedback 

If you’ve noticed a member of your team’s performance is slipping, you may say something like:

“Ann, ever since you joined our team, you’ve been one of our top performers! I’ve noticed your work over the last two weeks has had many mistakes, which I know from working with you in the past is very unlike you. I know how meticulous you usually are about your work being high quality, so if you’re facing any challenges that are affecting your work, please let me, or anyone else on the team, know how we can help.”

Destructive feedback 

If you were to give the same team member destructive feedback, it may sound like:

“Ann, I’m not sure what’s going on with your work lately, but it has honestly been a mess. I’m not sure why you’re making errors and so many mistakes out of nowhere, but I really need you to get it together. I don’t have time to fix this and get it up to par so it’s usable. It’s really bringing the team down.”

Free feedback template

The next time you’d like to give a team member or coworker feedback, consider using this free template! Doing so ensures all key points are made and the conversation remains constructive.

Parting advice 

Sometimes having a conversation centering around constructive feedback can be a little uncomfortable for all parties. However, when you come into the discussion prepared with questions, examples, and open communication strategies, you’re bound to walk away with a solution. A little constructive feedback can go a long way—just be sure it never veers into destructive territory.

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