The Right Way to Give Feedback

When effectively administered, feedback is a powerful way to build knowledge and skills, increase motivation, and develop reflective habits of mind in employees. The following are the right ways to give feedback.

Feedback on both good and bad performance 

It is important to highlight to the employee what he has been doing correctly thus far to give him assurance in his work. Giving good feedback also helps to prep the individual to receive the “not so good” feedback in a positive manner.

Focus on performance, not the personality

The key is to focus on observable actions and not the attitudes. For instance, instead of saying “Your arrogance is causing problems”, say “When you interrupt me when I am speaking, it causes a problem”. Most people will instinctively defend themselves if you attack their personality and the entire conversation will go downhill from there. Hence, limit yourself to describing actions and performance that you can see rather than their attitudes or personalities.

Describe and do not infer 

Words such as careless, lazy, arrogant do not tell you anything about the individual’s actions, only what is inferred.  

Saying “There were spelling errors in your report” is describing rather than inferring “You were careless in your work” 

Saying “You turned up late for the meeting” describes rather than inferring “You lack commitment to the job”. 

Descriptions are clear yet are not necessarily more pleasant than inferences. Employees might still feel upset and guess what you are trying to infer. Nevertheless, it is still better to just describe what you have observed.

Be specific 

Compare these 2 instructions: “I would like you to practise delivering at least one presentation a week” versus “I would like you to develop your presentation skills”. The first statement is specific and tells us exactly what is expected so it leaves out any guesswork for the individual. 

Suggest concrete steps for improvement 

Instead of merely stating “You need to buck up”, managers need to guide the employee to come up with an action plan for possible solutions and work together to finalise what needs to be achieved. Employees may feel upset and unsure of themselves if managers are not able to direct them towards positive change. 


Topics: New Manager Essentials