Quick Steps to Constructive Feedback

Understanding differences of healthy, good, and poor feeback

My husband and I just wrapped up a small art festival in our town to raise money for the local food bank. It’s our second year, and we’re still tweaking things, so I’m happy when people feel comfortable giving us feedback.

That said, I’m continually surprised how many people don’t know the difference between constructive feedback and poor feedback. Here are a few examples I heard at the event:

Good Feedback: You need better signage.
Poor Feedback: Why didn’t you get more people to come?

Good Feedback: You should consider XX as a new location. I think it has better traffic.
Poor Feedback: I don’t like this place.

Good Feedback: I think you could use more volunteers.
Bad Feedback: I was going to donate, but I didn’t know who to talk to. 

Healthy Feedback

In a workplace setting, it’s important to develop a culture of feedback. Poor feedback can be more damaging than no feedback at all. Unhealthy feedback includes one or more of the following:
• A lack of specifics.
• A confrontational tone
• No solution
• No root cause
• Is provided long after it would have been useful.

Healthy feedback is just the opposite. It creates an atmosphere where real learning and change can take place. Constructive feedback is:

• specific and clear
• balanced
• timely

After getting an earful of both constructive and non-constructive feedback I value anyone who has taken the time to think through their points and provide useful criticism.

For those of you who need some help, let me provide you this.

Poor feedback: Quit being rude
Constructive feedback: There are short videos online that can help you get your point across to people more effectively. You should check them out. 

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.