Here at RTS Labs, we believe feedback is important. We take it. We give it. We live and breathe by it. Feedback can be hard to take but giving it – effectively – can be even harder. Difficult or not, it’s an important part of growth for your employees, your projects and your company. Not all feedback is created equal. If we are not careful how we deliver it, it can be detrimental to the growth of a project or a team member.

Here are five guidelines to follow that will keep your feedback constructive.

Detach the critique from the person

Your feedback should always be situational, not personal. You never want the person on the other end to feel as though they are being attacked. How do you do that? Look for ways to describe the situation or the product itself rather than criticizing the person. This means using the passive voice rather than the active voice and focusing on description rather than judgement.

If you don’t like the design of something a team member created, saying something like “You need to do a better job on your design” sounds like a personal attack. It’s not helpful, only hurtful. Saying instead, “I think this design could use more color” focuses more on the project and less on the person who designed it.

Be specific

Constructive feedback is specific. Being vague doesn’t help anyone – it merely points out the fact that you don’t like something without identifying the specifics. Being specific means focusing on objective points and not subjective points.

“I don’t like the look of this design” is too vague. It doesn’t address the why. Why don’t you like the design? What specifically do you not like? You should break your feedback into key points and focus only on critiquing the things that can be acted upon.

Give recommendations

The purpose of feedback is for improvement. No matter what you’re giving feedback on, it should be for the sake of growth. In addition to your specific key points, you should give recommendations. Recommendations help guide people down the right path and avoid overcorrection or a correction in the wrong direction.

If you don’t like how something is worded, explain why and how it might be worded differently. “This copy is a little dull, perhaps we can make it punchier.” “This design is a little bright, let’s try it with a softer palette.”

Don’t overload the person

While it’s important to provide specifics and recommendations, avoid going overboard by rattling off a long list of changes or behaviors you don’t like. Overloading someone with feedback can be just as detrimental as delivering it in the wrong way. It can become less constructive and seem like more of an attack. Rather than rattling off a list of changes, perhaps there is an overarching theme that you can communicate needs changing.

Follow the Feedback Sandwich Method

The Feedback Sandwich Method is a popular and effective method. This method is best for someone you may not know well, someone who does not take feedback very well, or for situations where there is a lot of feedback to be given.

Here’s how it works:

  • Start by pointing out what you like.
  • Next, point out feedback for what you don’t like (using the guidelines we discussed above).
  • Either reiterate what you liked or talk about the positive results that can be expected if the criticism was fixed.

Feedback delivered in the wrong way can create a resentful, hostile environment. Following these easy guidelines will ensure that your team and your projects are always growing and improving.