This article discusses the importance of constructive feedbacks in the workplace.

Hamlet believed he needed “to be cruel, only to be kind” but, for once, Shakespeare’s grasp of human nature doesn’t suit the modern workplace

Richard needed coaching over a problem with an employee whom he managed. He didn’t feel that Sheila was as committed to her work as she used to be. He knew he needed to say something, but he felt uncomfortable and dreaded the confrontation.

Richard admitted that normally he would hold back from saying something
because at times it seemed to be for a good reason. We talked about how holding back from communicating limits the other person, rather than empowering them.

It inhibits your relationship because often people sense you’re holding back and this can cause uneasiness.

Richard knew that holding back wasn’t useful but revealed that previously when he had said something the other person had become defensive. His example was “Your commitment to work isn’t good enough”. We talked about how he was dumping his opinions, worries, thoughts, criticisms and fears on them and how this doesn’t allow for open communication.

We then discussed the possibility of telling the truth which might be “Sheila, you don’t seem as committed to your work now.” Ouch! This may have been truthful and accurate, but it’s not constructive.

I suggested that Richard should become “unconditionally constructive” in all his communications. This means being positive, helpful and supportive without exception. It’s about putting people first and speaking to them in a way that shows your belief in them, without compromising standards.

It allows you to say everything you have to say in such a way that it helps the other person move forward. You can be direct and personal without leaving the other person feeling criticized, damaged or demoralized.

Even when you have tough things to say, endeavor to be constructive. Being unconditionally constructive can strengthen and support the other person. It helps to develop their confidence and contributes towards their personal growth, instead of protecting them from possible discomfort.

Taking this suggestion on board, Richard said to Sheila, “You’ve always been very committed to your work and I sense that there’s something missing in this commitment now. I just wondered what you think about this?” This allowed for an open discussion between them so that they could both decide the best way forward.

When you are unconditionally constructive, you don’t point out the negative, even if it’s obvious. You understand that the negative is obvious, so why mention it? You focus on the person’s strengths and not their weaknesses. Their shortcomings are addressed by suggesting the most favorable outcome possible.

One of the things that holds people back from being unconditionally constructive is the need to establish superiority or “being right”. I encourage you to drop this need.

Your role, whether as leader, manager, parent or partner will require communicating feedback, advice and support. Being unconditionally constructive in all your communications creates a better environment, achieves more, overcomes problems more quickly and prevents the build-up of resentment. It allows for open communication between people, rather than the other person clamming up and going on the defensive.

When you communicate openly and allow for discovery, you boost yourself, the other person, the situation and also your business. Being unconditionally constructive requires awareness, skills and practice. Let it to be a part of who you are and with practice it will happen naturally, just like breathing.

What difference would being unconditionally constructive make to your life? What do you need to make it happen?