Do you know your team’s full potential could be stifled by the way employees constructive feedback is handled in your organization? According to a Harvard Business Review analysis, 72% of employees believe their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback. Google’s Project Oxygen study also highlighted the importance of managers acting as coaches, which includes providing employees constructive feedback and engaging in regular 1-on-1 meetings. They observed that managers who scored higher on their performance metrics were those who held frequent 1-on-1 sessions with their team members and offered constructive critiques when required instead of undeserved praises.

employees constructive feedback

Oxford Academic’s insights also reveal how crucial feedback is—as an essential ingredient for a vibrant workplace. Think of it as a performance thermometer, a guide for employees sharpening their abilities, a nudge towards meaningful self-discovery, and a push to do better. But remember, it’s the quality of the feedback that matters. Only when it’s done right does it spark the kind of growth and progress every organization hopes for.

Constructive vs. Destructive Criticism

Understanding the fine line between constructive and destructive criticism is paramount in shaping the culture of an entire organization. Constructive criticism is the skill of offering feedback that uplifts and guides rather than disheartens. It is the kind of feedback that, when given properly, can transform performance.

For instance, imagine a sales associate who has been underperforming. Destructive criticism might involve telling them bluntly, “Your sales numbers are the lowest on the team. You’re not cut out for this.” This approach is crushing and leaves no room for growth or change. On the other hand, constructive criticism would take the form of, “I’ve noticed your sales numbers have dropped, and I believe in your potential. Let’s go over your sales tactics together and see where we can fine-tune your approach.”

Constructive criticism is inherently supportive, aiming to inspire improvement and learning. For instance, a project manager might say to their team, “While the project was delivered on time, I noticed some issues with the final report. Let’s work together on developing a more thorough review process for next time.”

The crux of destructive criticism is that it often targets the individual, not the action. This type of criticism can tear down an individual without providing a clear path for improvement. It often leads to an environment of fear and resentment, counterproductive to growth. A study by Cambridge University Press revealed that such criticism can lead to avoidance behaviors in employees, which often stifle creativity and willingness to take on new challenges.

The Importance of Giving Constructive Feedback in 1-on-1 Sessions

One-on-one sessions offer a unique chance to tailor feedback to the individual, away from peers’ ears. The privacy of these sessions gives room for openness and vulnerability, which are crucial for impactful feedback. Constructive feedback during these sessions is essential because:

It Personalizes Development:

One-on-one feedback sessions are a strategic tool for addressing the unique mix of strengths and challenges each employee presents. This nuanced form of feedback acknowledges the diversity of employee experiences – recognizing that each staff member’s professional journey is studded with a unique constellation of skills and stumbling blocks. Such personalized feedback delves into the individual attributes of an employee, identifying not only areas that require polishing but also those that shine brightly, deserving recognition and further cultivation.

For example, an employee who demonstrates strong analytical abilities yet falters in assertive communication may receive guidance tailored to leverage their analytical strengths to support their communication. Instead of a blanket directive to “be more confident,” they would be equipped with strategies to prepare data-supported arguments, using their analytical prowess to reinforce their assertiveness. It is through this lens of individualized attention that constructive feedback propels each employee on a growth trajectory that is meticulously crafted to their unique professional blueprint.

Encourages Open Communication

Encouraging open communication stands as a fundamental outcome of offering constructive feedback during one-on-one sessions. These intimate settings provide the ideal backdrop for in-depth discussions that might not take place in a group environment. When managers deliver feedback that is specific, actionable, and focused on development rather than criticism, it does more than address immediate issues — it sets the stage for a continuous and open dialogue.

In one-on-one sessions, employees are typically more receptive to discussing their thoughts and concerns, knowing they are in a private space away from the judgment of peers. This receptivity is heightened when they understand that the feedback they receive is intended to guide and improve their performance. When managers approach these sessions with genuine respect for the employee’s abilities and with a sincere intent to assist rather than to admonish, it embraces an environment of open communication. Each session becomes a stepping stone towards a stronger rapport, where employees feel seen and understood, not just as workers but as human beings with professional aspirations and potential. For instance, a manager noticing an employee’s struggle with time management could offer tools and techniques for prioritization and organization, emphasizing their belief in the employee’s ability to overcome this hurdle.

Builds Trust and Rapport

The dispensation of constructive feedback is a profound exercise in trust-building that extends far beyond the simplistic mechanics of managerial oversight. When judiciously and respectfully rendered, feedback acts as a binding agent in the relationship between a manager and their employee, laying the groundwork for a durable edifice of trust.

In the one-on-one setting, when a manager articulates feedback that is not only corrective but also affirming, it sends a potent message of belief in the employee’s capacity for growth and improvement. This form of engagement recognizes the employee’s inherent worth and potential contribution, thus engendering professional intimacy and mutual respect that are the hallmarks of a robust organizational culture.

The implications of this dynamic are significant. Trust, once established, becomes a catalyst for elevated performance, greater willingness to take calculated risks, and more profound loyalty to the team and organization. This trust, born from the fertile soil of constructive feedback, lays the foundation upon which the edifice of sustained organizational excellence is built.

Provides Clarity and Direction

Clear and constructive feedback transforms the abstract concept of improvement into actionable steps for employees. When managers master this communication, they create a precision tool for professional development that aligns individual actions with the broader organizational vision.

This clarity in feedback ensures that employees understand not only what is expected of them but also the importance of these expectations in the larger context of the company’s goals. It removes ambiguity, focuses effort, and delineates a pathway for professional growth directly tied to the company’s success. Such strategic alignment is crucial as it enables employees to see their role through the lens of the organization’s objectives, providing a sense of purpose and motivation to advance these collective goals.

Empowers Employees

By integrating constructive and collaborative feedback, leaders effectively deputize employees as partners in their growth narrative. When employees are deeply involved in creating their growth strategies, they become more committed to using feedback constructively. This commitment transforms feedback into a powerful tool for both personal and team advancement.

The 5 Principles of Constructive Criticism to Adopt During 1-on-1 Sessions

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” Ken Blanchard once noted, emphasizing the pivotal role that thoughtful feedback plays in achieving organizational excellence. One-on-one sessions offer a unique opportunity for delivering constructive criticism. Here are essential guidelines to follow for impactful feedback in these settings:

1.   Frame Feedback Positively

Initiating a feedback session with positive remarks is a tactical approach that mirrors the best practices of experienced leaders. It is a calculated effort to prime the individual for receptivity and engagement. An excellent way to approach this is by adopting the sophisticated ‘praise-correction-praise’ model within the feedback structure. This model is also called the “sandwich method,” it involves starting by praising the employee, providing corrections and actionable steps, and ending with another praise.

When you highlight an employee’s accomplishments, like their exceptional attention to detail in a high-stakes project, you’re not just offering praise; you’re spotlighting the exact attributes that benefit your team. This kind of acknowledgment acts as a psychological cushion, softening the impact of subsequent critiques.

For instance, when you tell an employee “Your meticulous approach on our recent project really set the benchmark for excellence we aim for.” This not only acknowledges their efforts but also establishes a foundation of respect. As you transition to areas for improvement, frame it as a path to enhance their notable performance, not as a shortfall.

As the meeting wraps up, reinforce the positives to affirm their strengths and ensure the session is remembered as encouraging. Close with confidence and encouragement, like this: “Your contributions have been significant, and I have every confidence that with these refinements, you’ll reach even greater levels of success.” This method acknowledges their valuable work and conveys a solid trust in their ability to soar to new heights, shaping the feedback session into a conversation that inspires and empowers.

2.   Be Specific and Objective

Being specific and objective in feedback involves moving from broad characterizations to targeted, actionable insights. For example, rather than telling an employee, “You need to manage your time better,” provide a specific instance where time management could have been handled differently. You might say, “In the Blue Ocean project, I noticed the deadline was tight because we started the market analysis a week late. Can we discuss how you might approach this differently next time to ensure we stay on schedule?”

This method does more than highlight a deficiency; it sets the stage for a constructive strategy to improve. Offering a clear, objective example focuses the conversation on tangible events that can be analyzed and learned from rather than leaving the employee to decipher ambiguous feedback. It’s a direct approach that employees can grasp and act upon, providing a clear pathway to better performance.

3.   Focus on the Issue, Not the Person

Focusing on the issue rather than the individual is crucial for maintaining professional objectivity and preserving the employee’s self-esteem. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re disorganized,” which could be taken as a personal attack, a leader might say, “I’ve noticed that the organization of project files has been inconsistent, which has led to some information being hard to find.” This way, the critique is directed at a specific, observable behavior rather than the person.

This approach respects the employee’s dignity and acknowledges that everyone has room for improvement. It also implies that the issue is situational and, most importantly, solvable. For example, by discussing the tangible effects of disorganized files, you provide a clear rationale for why change is necessary, which is more likely to elicit a constructive response. Employees can then engage with the problem without feeling personally diminished, enhancing their willingness to address it and find effective solutions.

4.   Encourage a Dialogue

Encouraging dialogue during feedback transforms the session from a one-sided lecture into a collaborative exchange, which can have a profound psychological impact on how the feedback is received and acted upon. For example, rather than simply stating, “Your report lacked the necessary detail in several areas,” a manager could ask, “What challenges did you face in fleshing out the details of the report?” This question invites the employee to share their perspective, potentially revealing obstacles like unclear guidelines or time constraints.

By adopting this two-way communication, the employee feels heard and valued, which can significantly reduce defensiveness and increase their engagement with the feedback process. Psychologically, it puts both parties on more equal footing, creating a sense of partnership in problem-solving. It also allows the employee to take an active role in their development process, which can be empowering and result in more meaningful, self-directed change.

5.   Set Goals Together

End the conversation with an improvement plan that you’ve both agreed upon. When a manager and employee jointly create a development plan, it infuses the process with a sense of shared commitment. For instance, after discussing areas for growth, the manager might say, “Let’s outline the steps you feel you can take to enhance your project management skills.” Together, they might agree on specific training sessions, a timeline for skill assessment, and milestones to gauge progress.

This collaborative approach has a potent psychological underpinning. It leverages the employees’ intrinsic motivation, making them an active participant in their evolution. When employees have a hand in setting their goals, it heightens their sense of agency and accountability. It also demystifies the path to achievement, as goals are broken down into tangible, achievable steps.


Feedback remains the cornerstone of professional development and organizational excellence. We’ve dissected its nuances, from the necessity of clarity and empathy to the mechanisms that drive its effective delivery and reception. The clear takeaway is that a culture rich inemployees constructive feedback is synonymous with a thriving business environment. It enhances performance, nurtures talent, and aligns personal goals with broader organizational objectives.

This exploration underscores the profound impact of skillful feedback—it is an investment in people that pays dividends in innovation and engagement. As we conclude, remember that the strength of feedback lies in its ability to propel us forward, refine our skills, and forge teams that are not just functional but formidable. Let us commit to mastering this art and, in doing so, elevate our workplaces to heights of excellence previously unimagined.

Elevating Organizational Growth with eLeaP

eLeaP’s Learning Management System (LMS) and People Success Platform (PSP) have been redefining workplace learning and performance since 2002. Recognized with the Capterra Award, and eLearning Industry’s Top 10 LMS Website Designs Award, eLeaP stands out in its field for creating unparalleled learning experiences and growth opportunities.

The Check-ins, 1-on-1s, and Recurring Meetings System offered by eLeaP aligns seamlessly with the strategies for employees constructive feedback discussed in the article. This innovative module within the PSP is designed to enhance the quality of communication between leaders and team members, ensuring that every 1-on-1 session is a step towards greater engagement and continuous improvement. By customizing agendas and integrating with widely-used calendars, eLeaP ensures that critical conversations happen regularly and are well-prepared for, aligning perfectly with the principles of effective feedback highlighted in the article.