Give Good Feedback

Giving feedback sounds simple, but in reality, it’s not. On the one hand, you want to give your honest opinion, but you also want to make your discussion productive. Most importantly, you don’t want to discourage the person you’re giving feedback to. You can get the most out of your feedback session, however, if you plan what you’re going to say ahead of time, get to the point, and make the receiver a part of the solution.


Planning What to Say

  1. Focus on one criticism at a time. Hearing criticism after criticism is often too much for a person to take. They can end up feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, instead of feeling inspired to do better. They may also feel attacked.
    • Select the most pressing issue to address first. Move onto the next once you believe the initial problem is resolved.[1]
  2. Get into specifics. Vagueness doesn’t do anyone any good when it comes to feedback. You’ll need to give specific examples or direction if you want the behavior to continue or stop.
    • For example, instead of saying, “Good job on that report,” tell them specifically what you liked about it. Giving detailed examples increases the chances they will continue the same high level of work.[2]
  3. Use “and” and “what if.” The words you use can make a big difference in how feedback is absorbed. Adding the words “and” and “what if” to your criticism often make the person feel encouraged and inspired to improve their performance. It also makes your feedback feel less like an attack.
    • For example, say, “I think your opener is strong, and what if we added a few more action steps?” Avoid the word “but” as it adds a negative connotation.[3]
  4. Create safety. Feedback is typically only applied about 30 percent of the time. The percentage is even less if the person doesn’t feel comfortable when receiving the feedback. Creating an atmosphere in which the person feels respected and safe increases the chances of them implementing the feedback given.
    • Always stay civil with the person while you are giving your negative feedback. Avoid trying to make them look silly in front of people around you. Doing so will only backfire and cause them to lose respect for you. Additionally, they may ignore your feedback out of spite.[4]

Getting Straight to the Point

  1. Be direct. There’s no point in sugar-coating your feedback. In fact, your criticism will likely become lost if you sandwich it between praise. Instead, simply come out with what needs improvement.
    • Additionally, use specifics in your feedback. Say exactly what it is that the person should work on. If not, they won’t know how to become better.[3]
  2. Say it when it occurs. Give the positive or negative feedback as soon as you see something that needs to be addressed. Waiting until after the fact is often dangerous because you may not remember exactly what happened, and neither will the person you’re giving feedback to.
    • Pull the person aside as soon as you can and say, “I noticed you completed the task like this. However, I don’t think that’s the best way to do it.” Or, “I really like how you handled the task you were given.” You are more likely to make an impact when you address the situation immediately.[4]
  3. Decide where to say it. Criticism should be given in private, as your goal isn’t to embarrass anyone. Praise, however, can take place in public. Typically, giving positive feedback around others makes the person you’re addressing feel good about themselves and can boost the overall morale.
    • For example, you can send out a mass email praising the person. You could also create an employee of the month or wall of fame to showcase accomplishments.[5]

Involving Them in the Solution

  1. Give them a chance to respond. Pause and ask for their opinion after you’ve given your feedback. Give them the time they need to formulate a response and try not to rush them. You will make them feel like they are a part of the conversation—and solution—if they are also given a say.[6]
    • Don’t allow them to become disrespectful with you. However, give them a chance to say what they really feel. Try not to interrupt and then return with positive suggestions, if applicable.
  2. Ask their opinion. Ask them their perspective on what happened before you give your negative feedback. You may get an explanation for their behavior or performance that you might not otherwise. Hold them accountable for their actions, but don’t become unprofessional.[7]
    • Resist any temptation to tell them how ridiculous their performance was. Doing so will only cause negative feelings and prevent them from wanting to improve. Instead, listen to what they have to say and use their explanation to figure out how to stop them from doing it again.
  3. Focus on improvement instead of criticism. You may really want to put the person in their place if they’ve acted poorly. However, focusing on what they did wrong instead of how to improve will result in poor morale and the same lackluster performance.
    • Along with the feedback, give exact details on how to improve. Chances are the person does want to do a good job, but may not know how to.[7]
  4. Explain the effects of their performance. Telling them how their actions impacted those around them is more effective than just simply telling them what they did wrong or right. Going into detail about how people were affected—clients, co-workers, etc.—can make them want to improve or keep up their performance.[8]
    • For instance, say, “Your excellent performance caused our clients to renew their contract for another year,” instead of something generic like, “Our clients were really happy with what you did for them.” Hearing that they achieved a goal will likely encourage them to continue their hard work.

Sources and Citations