We can all get better at Communication. It is a skill like any other that we can put the time into improving. And feedback, as a manager, is one of the most significant moments of communication that you will have at work. Feedback delivered well can make someone into a top colleague. Done badly and it can be destructive.

There are simple steps to ensure you’re giving strong but constructive feedback. 

Firstly, some key phrases that should be avoided when communicating. 

1. ‘You should be more like…’ 

This is a direct comparison between them and someone else, perhaps a colleague, which can imply favouritism or create tension between parties. Focus on actionable tips rather than listing reasons why one is better than the other. You could use examples of attributes you like in an employee (not named) and give them actionable tasks to work towards this.

2.’ This has been a problem for a while’

If something has been brewing for a while, it is a fault of your own. You should be regularly checking in with employees to discuss progress and give feedback. It is unfair to let frustration or anger build up when they may be oblivious to the issue. 

Instead try; ‘Let’s get on top of this and move forward.’ 

3. If you don’t start improving…’

This is threatening language and can leave your employee feeling fearful for their job. It is your responsibility to give them actionable steps to help them achieve the change you would like to see. 

Instead try ‘It’d be great if we can make this change by the end of the week.’

4. ‘I have no feedback for you’ 

Your employees are imperative to the business and not giving someone any feedback suggests their role is not valued. It’s always helpful to recap objectives with an employee and let them know that they’re continuing to do a good job. 

Instead try, ‘Do you have anything you would like to discuss with me?’

5. ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way’

This implies something critical from the get go and can make someone feel uneasy and nervous. Stop to think that what you’re about to say is constructive. If it is not helpful, find a way of giving useful feedback in a different way.

Instead try, ‘I think we could make some great progress if we discuss ways in which we can optimise your skills for…’

6. ‘Everyone thinks…’ 

What you are really saying is that you and another employee have been discussing them. This is a big no no in terms of professionalism. All feedback should come from you and no one else. 

Instead try, ‘I would like you to do (x,y,z) to make changes to your work.’

7. ‘Im worried about you taking on…’

Doubting someone’s ability before they’re about to take something on isn’t going to help the matter. Ask them if they have any reservations and help them with something that they or you are concerned about or that they’re struggling with. You can review this at a later date, but it’s important you don’t fill them with doubt before they’ve begun. 

Instead try, ‘Are you feeling equipped to take on this task? Let’s talk if you have any reservations or need any help.’

8. ‘I hope you can do better next month’ 

This phrase, again, shows doubt and puts pressure on the employee for the future and its consequences. 

Instead try, ‘This is what we can do to improve next month…’ 

It is important to remember that improving your manner when giving feedback will also benefit you. Language that is perceived as too critical or threatening can lead to lower levels of productivity, tension or de-motivation. Instead look to positive and affirming language that is relevant to the bigger picture.