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How to Write Constructive Feedback That Actually Works

2 min read

Do you dread giving feedback to people? You want your top talent to grow and develop, but do you struggle to strike a balance between honesty and kindness in performance reviews or comments on a report?

One of the challenges with written feedback is that it is hard to determine the tone. We lack the benefit of social cues, so constructive feedback often appears harsher in writing. Here are some pointers for effective business writing that will help you provide that feedback without emotions getting in the way.

Be positive

Make sure you point out what is positive about someone’s work before focusing on what needs improvement. People are less likely to get defensive when you appreciate their strengths and successes.

For example:

When giving feedback on a report, you can write: “Great job including all the facts in this report! It is very comprehensive. You need to proof again for sequencing and structure, however.”

Stick to the facts

Focus on specific, observable behaviors rather than criticizing the person’s attitude. Use examples to illustrate what you mean.

Instead of saying:

Concerned about your attitude and lack of punctuality.


Your travel expenses and performance reviews for your team have been submitted late more than half the time this year.

Decide what you really want

Be specific when you point out what improvements you want to see; examples speak a lot more clearly than general descriptions. Pinpoint the actions you are looking for!

For example:

When writing reports, use clear transitions between sections and make sure you put the bottom line on top.

Simplify, simplify…

You may think that providing elaborate explanations softens the blow of writing constructive feedback. The intention is good, but misguided.  You want to remove a Band-Aid swiftly to shorten the pain, right? Same principle here: get to the point directly. If you need an employee to correct a behavior, don’t beat around the bush.

Remember your ultimate purpose: to develop and grow your top talent. You want them to improve. Defensive employees are not likely to listen to your suggestions for improvement, and therefore they will not change their behavior. Keeping your feedback positive, direct and personable brings you closer to your goal.


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