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Macorva is more than just a feedback platform. We are a tool for change, helping businesses enhance their performance, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.
MacorvaApril 26, 202410 min read

How to Conduct Effective One-on-One Meetings: 8 Constructive Feedback Techniques

Constructive feedback in the workplace encourages employee growth, performance improvements, and a positive workplace culture defined by continuous learning. Studies show that employees prefer managers who provide frequent feedback over those who provide too little, underscoring the importance modern workers place on regular performance evaluations.

Despite knowing the value of providing constructive feedback, managers do not always communicate performance expectations effectively. Especially now that 12.7% of employees work remotely and 28.2% use a hybrid work model, updated feedback strategies are more important than ever. To deliver constructive employee feedback that leads to actionable improvements no matter where their employees work, employers should take advantage of modern resources, strategies, and tools.

This article outlines eight practical strategies for managers to deliver constructive feedback effectively. The aim of one-on-one meetings is to foster engagement, not tension, through direct and empathetic feedback that clearly outlines a path forward for each employee. This sets the stage for our detailed discussion on enhancing communication between managers and their teams.

Here are some of the best ways to incorporate constructive feedback into employee one-on-ones:

1. Utilize automated employee feedback software

Employee feedback software automates the feedback solicitation and delivery process, making it easier to collect and share feedback with employees. Modern feedback platforms organize ratings and comments on a single dashboard, providing both managers and employees access to the same reports. This shared access facilitates more effective and transparent one-on-one dialogues. 
One of the challenges of giving constructive feedback is that the individual on the receiving end may brush off the feedback as manager bias, or “just one person’s opinion.” Turning performance reviews into 360-degree constructive feedback enhances their validity. By automating and organizing responses, performance management software mitigates concerns of manager bias in the feedback process.  Employees are more likely to embrace feedback when it is frequent, specific, and anonymously provided by multiple raters, rather than dismissing it.

With AI and machine learning tools enabled, providing constructive feedback with automated software is even easier. AI can analyze feedback patterns, predict employee performance trends, and collate these findings into personalized feedback suggestions for managers. This further reduces bias in the feedback process and provides even greater transparency for employees invested in improving their performance.

2. Provide one-on-one coaching

One-on-one coaching empowers employees to improve by giving them a mentor instead of merely a manager, which is a priority for 83% of rising Gen Z talent when they look for a new job. By combining managing and coaching, one-on-one assessments can establish productive connections with employees, reinforcing a workplace culture focused on continuous learning.

Traditional annual reviews restrict the feedback process while continuously addressing feedback encourages employees to identify solutions and change their behavior over time. Effective coaching strategies differ depending on the work environment, but some examples of how coaching can be introduced into one-on-one discussions include:

  • Prioritizing open-ended questions in performance reviews
  • Being specific about the challenges employees face
  • Offering troubleshooting when they need support
  • Developing a personalized action plan for each employee’s development

Performance management software allows managers to back up these strategies with data collected from other performance reviews, co-worker ratings, employee responses, and more.

3. Identify training solutions

Often, managers opt for generalized criticism when providing constructive feedback. Rather than only identifying problems, managers should shift to offering tools to help employees improve their performance. This is especially vital in remote working conditions since employees lacking in-person interactions currently experience record lows in workplace engagement.

By providing training, whether through on-site resources, an outside provider, or an automated solution through the company’s workforce management platform, managers can help employees build their skills and increase their confidence.

4. Learn to ask questions

Asking questions can be a great way to incorporate constructive feedback into performance assessments. The right question can open a dialogue between workers and managers about the challenges they face with an internal process, skill, teammate, or objective, setting the stage for a productive discussion that addresses their problem areas.

Managers just learning how to give constructive feedback may wonder how to phrase these questions to maximize their effectiveness. The important thing is to be open-ended and focused on the employee’s assessment of their experience in the workplace. Effective constructive feedback examples could include questions like these:

  • How is your relationship with coworkers?
  • Do you have a relationship on the team you’d like to improve?
  • Were you satisfied with the outcome of your last project?
  • Is there anything in your work causing you frustration?
  • Do you have any questions about your role?
  • Are there any skills you hope to improve in your work?
  • Do you think any of our workplace processes seem inefficient?

These constructive negative feedback examples are just a starting point. To learn how to effectively give constructive feedback, managers must tailor their line of questioning to their objectives. They should also be open to accepting feedback for their performance as part of the ongoing dialogue they hope to create with employees.

In addition to potentially improving their management strategies, managers who are willing to accept employee feedback also demonstrate their own commitment to continuous learning. When asking for feedback and showing a willingness to act on it, you are also encouraging employees to be more receptive to the constructive feedback they receive.

5. Demonstrate empathy

One of the reasons employees might be resistant to feedback is because they need reassurance that their manager is “in their corner” and wants to help them succeed. By demonstrating empathy, you’re not only showing that you care about an employee’s success, but you’re also demonstrating that you can relate to their experiences and see things from their perspective.

Despite the crucial role empathy plays in any effective constructive feedback strategy, 52% of employees surveyed in the Ernst & Young Empathy in Business Survey (2023) reported that corporate attempts to show empathy felt inauthentic. This means that empathetic statements are not enough to encourage meaningful change. Managers must learn to actively demonstrate empathy if they hope to reap its benefits.

When done effectively, one-on-one meetings provide an ideal opportunity to demonstrate empathy while providing constructive feedback. Phrasing feedback as a desire to help the employee improve, understand their situation, and see their perspective allows managers to open a more transparent dialogue about the problem areas the employee is experiencing.

Here are some of the ways that managers can connect with their employees and show empathy while giving constructive feedback:

  • Use active listening techniques when providing constructive feedback, including making eye contact, asking follow-up questions, referring to what has already been discussed, and showing interest by listening more than speaking.
  • Put yourself in the employee’s position when asking questions or delivering feedback.
  • Offer suggestions for improvement without resorting to a critical or condescending demeanor.
  • Relate to an employee’s struggle by offering guidance based on experience rather than always defaulting to judgment or criticism.

6. Encourage direct engagement

Subtle messages are easy to misinterpret, but direct feedback lets employees know exactly where they stand. Consider not only the message but also the tone and specific words you use to deliver it. Giving constructive feedback should not be so negative that it becomes demoralizing, but sugarcoated advice may leave employees unclear about how to address their behavior. Direct yet respectful engagement strikes the right balance between suggestion and judgment.

For example, an employee who has been missing their deadlines may not benefit from critical or generalized reminders such as, “Make sure you remember your deadlines” or “Let me know if you need help.” They might also become disengaged if the feedback is specific but too critical.

These are not effective examples of constructive feedback because they lack empathy and don’t give the employee a clear course of action. More effective feedback might sound like this: “I noticed you missed an important deadline last week, which delayed a production schedule. I’d like to talk with you about it and see what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Being direct requires taking the time to craft a constructive message that is both honest and clear but when done effectively helps employees understand their position and where they can go from here.

7. Employ peer-to-peer feedback

Encouraging peer-to-peer feedback extends this direct engagement to a more collaborative and supportive team environment. Even the most direct and empathetic managers cannot fully trust a normal performance review since employees act differently around their supervisors. The peer review process provides insights into their behavior, performance, and capabilities that may not be possible in one-on-ones.

Knowledge of these insights will improve the one-on-ones too since you will have a clearer understanding of how the workplace impacts the performance of each employee. This will guide your line of questioning to more productive and empathetic topics. An effective peer review system organizes its data points by the employees’ roles to identify gaps in performance as well as assess teams of workers at once.

Using peer feedback, managers can reward collaboration while keeping their finger on the pulse of the workplace. Remember to provide supportive guidelines to workers on how to give constructive feedback. Even when anonymous, providing constructive feedback encourages employee bonding both within the team exercises and after returning to normal work.

8. Make it SMART

SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. By following this acronym when giving constructive feedback, managers can ensure that performance expectations are clearly defined and well-understood by employees. When following SMART, constructive feedback can become a powerful catalyst for performance improvement and employee growth.

Here are examples of how to give constructive feedback using the SMART model:

  • Specific: Unambiguously tell the employee the issue you hope to discuss, what you expect them to learn, and what options they have for addressing the issue.
  • Measurable: Explain the specific results you expect to ensure they have heard and addressed the feedback.
  • Actionable: Tie the feedback to specific corrective action they can take to fix the issue.
  • Realistic: Focus the feedback on performance targets and omit trivial or overly critical observations that distract from the main issue.
  • Time-bound: Convey a sense of urgency in the feedback by assigning a time frame in which you expect to see results.

To use a real-world example of SMART in action, Mass Medical Storage adopted Macorva’s AI-powered feedback management platform to go from inadequate survey participation to nearly 100% employee engagement in its new 360-degree feedback system. By using AI to process employee responses and identify priority improvement areas, Mass Medical successfully created a data-driven roadmap that enhanced employee satisfaction, boosted retention, and increased productivity using specific, actionable, and measurable feedback.


Constructive feedback is a powerful catalyst for performance improvement and employee growth. Delivering constructive feedback doesn’t have to be a stressful experience that leaves both parties feeling flustered, confused, or angry.

However, even ideal feedback must be effectively applied to actionable strategies to create the desired performance improvements. This is why tracking and measuring the impact of feedback on employee engagement and performance is so important. Employee engagement software that defines feedback metrics, tracks KPIs, and streamlines performance management can provide managers with the means to effectively engage with a changing workforce.

Whether employees work at home, in a company space, or within a hybrid model, managers need new ways to incorporate constructive feedback into their management model. These 8 strategies represent effective practices that can be paired with management software solutions to take the pain out of feedback delivery. With the right tools, constructive feedback can become a dialogue that encourages an environment of continuous learning, ultimately strengthening the bonds between employees, managers, and the business.


Editors note: this blog was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 



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