Giving constructive feedback in the office can be a thin line between helpful and hurtful.

Giving feedback and constructive criticism in the workplace is critical to individual employee development as well as overall team success. Providing guidance and feedback is crucial in order for employees to understand where they are and where they are headed professionally. When giving honest feedback to someone, especially in a professional environment, you want to make sure that you come across as genuine, kind and helpful and never condescending or patronizing. It’s easy to fall into a habit of “telling it like it is” or explaining that “back in my day, this is how we did things.” However, it’s crucial to be cognizant of how you impart your opinions and advice on others to make sure you maintain your professionalism and relationships within the office. In my 11 years of recruiting, I’ve developed a list of five key factors to consider and be conscious of when giving constructive feedback to someone.

1. Be selfless in your actions and words. Ensure you are giving advice to someone for his or her own benefit and not to hear yourself talk or to simply sound smart. You want the purpose of your guidance to be to help the individual grow and develop and not for your own personal gain or validation.

2. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal. When approaching someone with advice, don’t preface your comments with your credentials or elevate yourself above the other person.

3. Consider your words and phrasing carefully. Avoid any condescending terms. For instance, “Look, sweetie, I’ve been doing this a long time,” is not only derogatory, but also implies you know more and are more experienced than the individual.

4. Likewise, consider your tone. Don’t change your tone when giving advice. Instead keep it conversational and speak like you normally would under other circumstances.

5. When giving advice, don’t assume the person does something all the time. Just because someone makes a mistake once doesn’t mean it’s the norm for them. For example, you could say, “This may not happen often, but I don’t want it to become a pattern,” and continue with your advice.

Giving advice and guidance in the workplace can be tricky. However, if you adhere to these principles, you’ll develop deeper, more meaningful relationships and improve productivity in your office. Do you have a success or horror story to share? Let us know in the comments below.


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