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Keys to Effective Feedback and Truly Constructive Criticism

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In a medical environment, providing constructive feedback to those under your supervision can mean the difference between life and death in some situations. No one enjoys being told that they are doing something wrong or getting “caught in the act” when they’re using shortcuts or practices that are against policy; however, providing feedback and corrective criticism doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. Here are a few key tips that will help you to give feedback that is heard clearly and more likely to be acted upon.

  1. Act immediately. If you notice a problem or mistake being made, speak up right away. When you hoard transgressions for quarterly or annual review, you’re simply allowing bad habits to continue, which isn’t a good thing for anyone.
  2. Be specific. Instead of making general statements saying “I don’t like how you’re doing X. You need to do a better job,” be sure to be clear about the behavior and how it can be corrected. Something as simple as “When you pile charts on my desk, it makes it hard for me to find what I need. Please use the rack to keep them organized” can give them the guidance they need to give you the behavior that you desire.
  3. Be concise. When giving feedback, it is not the time to stand up on your soapbox about every issue you have with the way that things are done and not done in the office. State your issue, offer a solution, and carry on.
  4. Use the “sandwich method.” People often feel attacked and shut down when you start a conversation with a negative statement. Open and close any conversations about an issue with a positive statement about their performance to make it more likely that they will be open to the criticism and respond appropriately.
  5. Consider the location. Feedback, unless it is an emergent situation that could cause immediate harm, should always be given privately. Criticism given in front of an audience can be embarrassing and cause negative feelings to arise.
  6. Focus on the behavior. Be clear about the issue that you have with their performance, but don’t make it about them personally. Instead of “Your attitude with patients is an issue,” say something like “It causes a problem when you make critical comments patients who don’t correctly follow instructions.”
  7. Give them a chance to speak. Be sure that they have a chance to be heard during your conversation. You may find out that there are other issues within your office with training or lack thereof that are causing an issue. Or an underlying issue that is causing a specific behavior. Be open to their feedback and they will be more likely to be open to yours.
  8. Walk away on a positive note. Don’t end conversations where you’re requesting a change in behavior with a negative tone. Show your appreciation for the ways in which they do their job well and thank them for listening. Telling people that they’re doing something wrong can be tough, but it’s important to do what you can to make it feel constructive and not an attack on them personally.

Following these tips will help you to interact more effectively with those under your supervision and make it more likely that feedback will be acted on. And remember, feedback doesn’t always have to be negative! Be sure to also point out and publicly acknowledge a job well done. You’ll create a better work environment for everyone.


Do you have extensive experience giving constructive feedback to employees in the healthcare field? Please share your tips in the comment section below.


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Contributor Patrick Dotts

Patrick, who’s grown with Soliant over the past 8 years, was promoted to the managing director of the healthcare division in January of 2018. Before that, Patrick was the division director for Soliant’s nursing and allied health division. Patrick has worked very closely with not only hospitals and other healthcare facilities but also the healthcare professionals that make up their workforce. This experience has given Patrick a unique insight into the ins and outs of the medical field, especially regarding its workforce. Before Soliant, he graduated from Bowling Green University and cherishes his free time with his wife, daughter, and son. Make sure to read more of Patrick’s other blogs on nursing and allied health.