How to Give Employees & Crew Constructive Feedback

May 02, 2023 · 9 mins read ·

Crew Management
boss giving employee feedback

Whether they’re in your maritime recruitment team or onboard one of your vessels, who doesn’t like getting awesome feedback about their work? However, what is often not quite so welcome is constructive feedback.

And unless it’s worded very carefully, a lot of people can’t help but think that constructive criticism is just a thinly veiled way of telling them that they’ve done something wrong.

So as someone who is responsible for managing employees (and crew) how do you make sure that your constructive feedback - or criticism as they see it - actually has the effect of helping an employee or seafarer improve and not feel shot down?

How to give employees and crew constructive feedback

Probably the most important thing to realize is that each and every one of your shore-based employees or seafarers has a distinctive personality. And you need to take this into account when you speak to someone about their performance.

Read more: How to Look After Employee & Crew Mental Well-being?

Now, we know we just said that everyone is different, but typically, people can be broken down into four main personality groups in the workplace - and you will want to choose how you communicate with someone depending on which category they fall into.

The four personality groups are:

  • Amiable
  • Analytical
  • Driver
  • Expressive

Of course, not everyone is going to fit neatly into one group and one group alone and some of your employees or contractors might be a combination of one or more ‘types’.

Amiable Personality Types

Personality traits: These people generally don’t like causing problems or drama. They tend to be good natured and pleasant, happy with their daily routine or work, and supportive.

Possible problems: Amiable personality types can find it a little tricky to work alongside non amiable personalities - so if this describes you, you’ll need to deliver your feedback in a more friendly and positive way than might feel natural.

How they might respond to feedback: Amiable personality types are often emotionally sensitive, meaning they are likely to take constructive feedback personally and feel like they’ve let you down.

Read more: How to Handle Employees & Crew Who Don't Get On

How to communicate: Be clear that you care about them and the quality of their work and that you want them to succeed and grow. Tell them you want to keep the lines of communication open to support them as they work on improving the issue.

Analytical Personality Types

Personality traits: This is a group of people who are normally competent at their job. They are accurate, focus on the details - and usually expect the same from their coworkers or fellow crew members.

Possible problems: Analytical types can be procrastinators because they get too involved in the small details and the planning of a project or task rather than getting the actual job done. They are also prone to setting very high (or even unrealistic) standards.

How they might respond to feedback: Analytical types can become very uncomfortable if your feedback is focused on trying to get them to make quicker decisions to get the job done faster.

How to communicate: Because these people love analysis, you will get the message across more effectively if you provide examples of what needs to be improved - back these up with data if you can. Explain why your ideas for improvement will work, why it’s necessary to improve and what the outcome will be.

Driver Personality Types

Personality traits: Energetic, productive and usually confident, Drivers are leaders and like to focus on goals or targets.

Possible problems: Driver types are not detail-oriented and prefer looking at the bigger picture. They can also be caught delegating tasks to others if they don’t find them interesting or challenging enough. They can also come across as slightly rude or abrupt.

Read more: 5 Tips for Clearer Communication in the Maritime Industry

How they might respond to feedback: Drivers can get irritated if you over-explain your feedback and dive too much into the details - meaning they’ll be likely to switch off and won’t end up taking anything you say onboard.

How to communicate: Tell your driver types what they need to change and why in as few words as possible. Make sure your constructive feedback is clear, direct, meaningful and concise.

Expressive Personality Types

Personality traits: These people love to talk! They are generally communicative, creative and energetic.

Possible problems: Because of their energy, some expressive types have trouble focusing on the job or task they’re meant to be working on - they’re also not known for being very good at planning. They can be guilty of not letting coworkers or fellow crew get their point across. Some other personality types will also find their enthusiasm tiring and even a bit fake.

How they might respond to feedback: The energetic nature of expressive types often works in your favor as they normally want to do the best job they can. You will usually find that expressives will ‘suck it up’ and take your feedback on the chin.

How to communicate: These people love to talk so give them an opportunity to input their solutions for improvement and explain how they plan to achieve that. Just make sure you keep control of the conversation so they don’t digress!

Giving constructive feedback: general tips

Although your employees and crew will react differently to feedback and you’ll want to decide how you deliver it to them depending on that, there are things to keep in mind when it comes to  delivering constructive criticism.

Read more: Why Asking for Feedback Can Boost Your Crew Retention Rates

Firstly, make sure your meeting is one-on-one, private and discreet. When it’s over, leave the room with a smile so that anyone who might be watching sees no evidence as to what the nature of the meeting was.

This allows the employee or seafarer to either address the issue with their coworkers or crew or work on improving their work privately.

  • Start by thanking the employee or seafarer for meeting with you.
  • Be kind and acknowledge that conversations like this are never great.
  • Try and highlight something they’re doing well before delivering the slightly more negative feedback.
  • Explain what the issue is and provide recent examples, facts and/or data.
  • Be clear about the consequences of the issue
  • Make sure they understand why, what and how they need to change.
  • Tell them your expectations moving forward - make clear the effect that not rectifying the problem would have on the company, crew or team.

Why you should care about giving constructive feedback

It can be difficult both giving and receiving constructive feedback - but it can be done in an understanding manner.

Plus, when you communicate feedback in a way that is suited to their personality you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing a positive outcome.

Finally, it’s also crucial that you let the seafarer or employee know when (or if!) you’ve noticed any improvements. This way they will be more likely to keep up the good work and will be less likely to falter again in the future.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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