Effective Feedback

Category: Employee Engagement.

If you’re a parent, think back to the days when you cheered your baby on as they took their first steps. Those who don’t have kids can go back in time and try to remember the most influential people in your life. How did they talk to you?


Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life

– Brian Tracy, Chairman, and CEO of Brian Tracy International

In either scenario, you were on the giving or receiving end of effective feedback. Feedback is another word for communication, albeit a specific type of communication. It doesn’t come naturally, but it naturally impacts the way people respond to each other.

As Brian Tracy says, if you’re willing to do the work, you can learn effective feedback strategies. Here’s what you need to know:

What Effective Feedback Isn’t

You can implement feedback as a powerful tool used to inspire growth in individual employees and within teams. As powerful as it can be, it’s not uncommon for leaders from the top-down to deliver feedback in some of the most ineffective ways. Even worse, because they’re not comfortable with feedback, some avoid giving it entirely.

Before you can figure out how you can communicate more effectively, it’s a good idea to look at the negative side of feedback. Effective feedback is not:

  • A monologue
  • Unsolicited
  • Clear as mud
  • Reserved only for the yearly review
  • Public
  • A sandwich

Before you decide whether you want to use any specific feedback technique, you’ll want to understand the purpose of feedback in the workplace.

Is Feedback in the Workplace Even Necessary?

According to the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM), effective feedback is a vital component of a successful performance management program. Employee performance directly impacts the ability of your team and its members to meet goals.

Without feedback, your staff will feel abandoned. It’s like being blindfolded and expected to find the way home without any directions.

If you never offer feedback, people will assume they’re meeting the mark. There are also those one-off employees who skate by, under the radar. For them, no feedback means another day of not meeting performance goals with no consequences.

Feedback is one way to let your staff know what works and what doesn’t. Effective feedback does it in such a way that people feel empowered and engaged. It brings out the best in your employees.

Have You Ever Had a Feedback Sandwich?

Effective feedback focuses on strengths and weaknesses. In the workplace, it’s an evaluation of performance. One type of communication you’ll use is constructive feedback—also referred to as negative feedback.

When you serve up a feedback sandwich, you spread the constructive feedback between two slices of praise. It looks like this:

  • Positive comments
  • Constructive feedback

Some management development experts think the feedback sandwich coddles people. Others believe it’s the ideal way to make receiving constructive feedback feel more palatable.

Whether you’re a manager in the workplace or an educator tasked with providing effective feedback to students, the feedback sandwich could work well for you. It takes understanding when to use it, how to use it, and who to use it with to make it effective.

What’s in it for You?

Performance reviews are likely not a manager’s favorite activity. Likewise, employees don’t relish meetings where they anticipate criticism.

If you want to give effective feedback, start with self-examination. What purpose will feedback serve? If you’re using it as punishment for an unruly employee, stop! It’s not punishment, nor is it an opportunity for you to air your feelings about a situation.

Effective feedback isn’t about what’s in it for you. Instead, it’s about what’s in it for the person receiving the feedback. You want them to get the message that you care whether they meet their potential.

So, it’s not about you at all—it’s about nurturing your staff so that they reach their goals. Of course, one side effect of your efforts should be a positive impact on your bottom line.

Communicate Early and Often

Instead of saving feedback for the annual performance review, incorporate it into your management style so that people don’t feel picked on or blindsided. That means giving feedback early and often.

Time is of the essence when it comes to discussing how people can improve performance. Don’t wait for the opportune time to pull someone aside. Address issues as close to the negative behavior as possible.

The longer you wait to communicate, the less of an impact your feedback will have. That said, you do want to ask permission. No one appreciates when someone barrels into their workspace and starts criticizing their performance.

In addition to giving regular feedback promptly, you mustn’t steal the stage. Deliver the message and then allow the recipient to speak. Instead of a monologue, strive for dialogue.

Finally, communicate in private. No one else in the office should be privy to a feedback meeting.

Clear as Mud

Effective feedback isn’t vague. It’s specific. If that’s something outside of your comfort zone, you can learn the art of clear communication with practice.

Imagine sitting in front of your boss, who tells you your work isn’t up to par but doesn’t offer any specifics. Now, put yourself in your employee’s shoes. You wouldn’t want to be sent back to work blind to what the issues are!

Come to the meeting prepared with details about your observations. Without clarity, how can you expect someone to change their behaviors? Making people read between the lines is not only unfair, but it also guarantees that you won’t get your desired results.

Delivering effective feedback isn’t a static activity. You may spend the rest of your career improving your communication skills. The payoff is seeing how effective feedback is to promote positive change.

Final Thoughts

Giving effective feedback is one of the most important things you can do to help keep employees engaged, motivated, and simultaneously boost their productivity and performance. Learning what types of employee feedback work and what doesn’t get through to employees is a responsibility that all managers should take upon themselves.

Ensuring you are communicating with your employees and outlining expectations and criteria that can help them improve can benefit their experience at the company, your experience as a manager, and even the overall success of the company.

To learn how Profit.co can help keep your employees engaged and motivated with awards, surveys, and more, visit our product page. To see Profit.co’s employee engagement module in action, book a free demo with us today!

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