7 Ways To Give Constructive Feedback To Someone Who's Overwhelmed

Constructive feedback paves the way for healthy and open communication in the workplace and in life. Here's how to do it well.

women talking at work

Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff

Meredith Schneider for Hive
Meredith Schneider for Hive
July 25, 2024 at 3:26PM UTC
People are often afraid to ask for help. And feedback — whether asked for or not — can be a difficult thing to approach. This is especially true now, as the remote hybrid work model increases in popularity. In these instances especially, miscommunication can be a default issue. Knowing where people prefer to keep communication – CRM or chat systems, email, text, etc. — can improve your odds substantially. However, it is not a cure-all.
Constructive feedback paves the way for healthy and open communication in the workplace, and simply in life. It is a nuanced approach to handling workplace issues and stressors and is often handled best with an empathetic approach. First, you’ll want to create trust with your colleagues over time. Engage with them regularly, value their opinions and establish a natural rapport based on respect and the mission of the company. 
When it’s time to give them feedback, here’s what to do.

1. Find balance in your feedback.

When approaching feedback itself, ensure that you are balancing the negative with the positive. Analyze the issue or thought from all angles available to you. This is especially true when examining concerns you may have with their work, as many people are often protective of what they do and how they go about it. If you’re experiencing blocks on how to help them move forward, consult with other members of the team or management to help you come up with some key options. (Do not approach it as gossip or as an open dialogue criticizing anyone; productive critiquing is an art form.)

2. Constructive feedback is objective, not subjective.

Do not make the feedback personal. When engaging in it, identify your colleague’s strengths, call out the project’s weaknesses politely and give advice or thoughts on how to move forward. That way, they have a baseline for jumping off into success.
If you cannot provide ideas on the direction to go in, and only give negative feedback, then how can they gain clarity on their needs and the desires of the company? Constructive feedback can help reduce everyone’s worries and the amount of time people spend nitpicking over small details that may not be the main cause for concern.

3. Reduce stress with constructive feedback.

Stress can manifest itself in many ways. Some of the most common symptoms of stress include moodiness, frustration, and irritability. According to The American Institute of Stress, “83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor in their lives.” Not only that, but nearly half of adults in the United States admit that stress has negatively affected their demeanor. An astonishing 80% of working adults in North America are experiencing stress at work. It isn’t a small detail; it is a big issue that impacts millions of people.
It’s easy to see why stress is so commonplace in today’s workforce. When you are working in an environment where you are on pins and needles all day, it can be difficult to feel confident about the progress you are making. If people are not willing to communicate their feedback in a constructive way, it can often feel like you are getting the rough end of the bargain.
Are you valued in the workplace? Do people even recognize the strides you are making? Are you up for a layoff in such a strange and fast-paced economy? Constructive feedback can help reduce stress by providing a calm environment for people to receive feedback.

4. Foster workplace collaboration with constructive feedback.

Good collaboration is the driving force in the success of every business. When people within different departments and positions in a company can share their viewpoints and ideas openly, more ideas and thoughts can comfortably be brought to the table. Differing personalities and perspectives can help drive change and innovation within any industry, so keeping the door open for critique is a very positive thing for a healthy work environment.
Some work environments embrace this concept and schedule regular meetings to provide feedback in an open and tactical way. Performance reviews are a big part of this type of protocol. If your company is steering away from scheduling too many catch-up meetings, providing constructive feedback in real-time is a very practical way to stay involved with team efforts in real-time.
Notice that there might not have to be as many steps in a workflow? Do some quick research and present a new option to your colleague, in person, via email or even through an internal chat system. See a colleague’s idea for a campaign, and realize you may have a fun spinoff idea or small detail that could add to its effectiveness of it? Mention it to them! Worried about how your coworker is feeling while handling a project? Take them aside and ask them what support they may need to complete their assignment on time and in the best way possible. Perhaps there is something in your wheelhouse that could help, or you could suggest other resources within the workspace or elsewhere to help lighten their load.

5. Good management will ask for constructive feedback.

Have you ever been stressed out by a boss? Whether they are breathing down your neck to get work done or closed off to the rest of the department, there are clear signs of when workflows are simply not working because of management. Not only is constructive feedback positive for employees and underlings at any one company, but a true mark of good management is that they welcome this type of feedback themselves with open arms.
In order to run a company or team properly, a person should be aware of the impact they have on the people around them. Not only that, but it’s a sign of an open-minded boss. Feeling comfortable that your thoughts and views can be expressed, acknowledged and even acted upon by management can reduce stress in the workplace tenfold. It also makes colleagues more open to approaching management and handling productivity differently.

6. Embrace constructive feedback on a regular basis.

Keep your communication channels open. As stated previously, know where people prefer to receive feedback and open dialogue. If they’re more of a written word person, keep your feedback to chat, text or email. If they prefer talking it out, consider hopping onto a quick phone call, conducting a video chat or meeting them at the office. As long as you are open and willing to accept constructive feedback at any point of the day, you can set an example and hope that other members of your team will be open to reciprocation.
Attempt to go through details more rigorously, if need be. Be ready to explain your feelings and thoughts to substantiate your ideas. By communicating regularly with the people in your work environment, you can become more actively involved in evolving your workplace communications skills in an empathetic and honest way.

7. Offset overwhelm in other ways.

If you are looking for ways to better manage your stress in the workplace besides implementing constructive feedback, try some of these tips. If you are experiencing stress at a high level and frequency, it may be time to try noting when symptoms of stress are at their most noticeable. What triggers your stress? Is there a coworker, client, campaign, environment or another factor that really gets your heart pumping? What calms you down in these scenarios? Working with understanding around the ebbs and flows of your stress can help decrease overwhelm at work.
This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for giving constructive feedback at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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