How to Give Constructive Feedback

HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of Zenger/Folkman have administered thousands of 360-degree assessments. You can hear their interview on meaningful, i.e. corrective feedback, with Sarah Green Carmichael of the HBR IdeaCast program; or read the transcript at

Some highlights from the article to guide managers in how to have these conversations effectively include:

-Think about what you are trying to accomplish in the discussion

-Follow the underlying principles and philosophies of your management style; these should be known to all your employees

-It may sound obvious, but have a plan to follow

-Rehearse with a friend, partner or member of the HR team

Their research shows the more experienced and skilled a person is, the more they say they want corrective, or meaningful feedback. Zenger/Folkman’s data suggest people often have an underlying fear that there is something they might be doing that is not good and no one is telling them: We fear a mistake is there, that others see it, and we do not.

The authors agree that it is hard to imagine a time when offering constructive feedback to an individual or team is appropriate in a group setting. Instead, when a team is involved, they recommend following and after action review model developed in the military:

What did we hope would happen? What really happened? What made the difference?

Then work to identify: What’s the learning here?

By Patti Urbina
Patti Urbina Associate Director, Employer Outreach and Business Development