Receiving regular, actionable feedback is crucial for your employees’ growth and development. Delivered in the right way, feedback can positively impact your company through improved performance, increased employee engagement, and greater levels of trust.
But giving constructive feedback still makes many of us uneasy. If your feedback is unclear or too indirect, you risk confusing the person on the receiving end. And if it’s too direct, it can come across as harsh, damaging morale. Worse still, feedback given in the wrong way can make a person defensive and lead to awkwardness and confrontation. Good feedback motivates and motivation impacts employee retention.
To help you establish a healthy feedback culture, we’ll:
- Discuss the five steps of giving effective feedback
- Contextualize the steps with concrete examples
- Give four bonus tips on providing feedback that employees actually benefit from
- Provide a free PDF on how to provide feedback, accompanied by a cheat sheet describing the entire process
⭐️ A healthy feedback culture made easy with Leapsome
Our innovative and user-centric software supports a dynamic feedback culture!
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How to give effective feedback in 5 steps
The secret to giving effective and empathetic feedback is to realize that the whole point is to start an open conversation and help the person grow. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are five things you need to keep in mind to give useful feedback:
- Make sure the recipient is prepared for the feedback session
- Clearly describe the situation
- Present your take on the situation
- Give actionable recommendations for improvement
- Turn the session into a conversation
Let’s go deeper into these steps to help you become more comfortable sharing feedback.
Step 1: Make sure the recipient is prepared for the feedback session
Ensure the employee is in the right headspace for receiving feedback. This is especially important if your company doesn’t have an established feedback culture.
To do this, just ask the person if they’re okay with discussing the situation or behavior you need to talk about. This helps avoid catching them off guard and gives the feedback receiver a sense of autonomy in that exchange.
Help them understand your reasoning behind initiating the conversation and what they stand to gain. The person receiving the feedback needs to know that it’s well-meaning, legitimate, and coming from a place of genuine care.
🚀 Action: Begin the conversation by gauging the headspace of your employees.
Step 2: Clearly describe the situation
Vague feedback that leaves out the “when” and “where” of the situation is ineffective; it might also be perceived as judgmental and make the recipient defensive.
Being vague also makes it challenging for the receiver to incorporate the feedback. Instead, describe what happened with specific examples and leave less room for interpretation.
🚀 Action: Follow the “4W” questions model. This means addressing the who, what, when, and where in your feedback to ensure the receiver clearly understands what you’re referring to.
Step 3: Present your take on the situation
When providing your take on what did or didn’t go well, it’s crucial to avoid accusatory language, generalizations, and “you” statements.
You might not be aware of everything that’s going on in your employee’s life; so instead of saying “you’re never on time to meetings,” start by saying, “I’ve noticed that in the past few weeks, you’ve been arriving late to our weekly meetings. I was wondering if you could help me understand what’s making you late, and if there’s anything I could help you with (like changing the time of the meeting)?”
This way, you’ve pointed out that tardiness isn’t appreciated, but you’ve done it in an understanding and empathetic way that opens up a conversation — while offering ways to solve the issue.
🚀 Action: Share your perception of the event or behavior and begin sentences with “I.” For example, “I believe,” “I’ve noticed,” and “I sense.”
Step 4: Give actionable recommendations for improvement
There’s nothing worse than receiving feedback that gives you no clue on how to improve. Follow the description of the situation with actionable suggestions on how the employee can improve.
An actionable recommendation is:
- Something a person can easily put into practice
- Able to be accomplished within a specific amount of time
For example, saying “you need to give better presentations” only leaves the recipient confused and demoralized. Instead, opt for something like, “to improve your presentation skills, focus on maintaining eye contact with the audience and speaking more slowly.”
🚀 Action: Present clear recommendations for the next steps and make sure they’re actionable within a set amount of time.
Step 5: Turn the session into a conversation
The feedback process is a two-way street and should be an engaging conversation — not a lecture. So wrap your feedback with questions that invite discussion, such as:
- What do you think about that?
- How do you feel about what I’ve just shared with you?
- This is what I think we should do. But I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.
- Could you help me better understand what’s happening?
- Do you think I’ve made a fair assessment here?
- How do you think we can improve on this?
By doing this, you’ll showcase your commitment to your employee’s development and create a climate of transparency and trust.
🚀 Action: Clarify your understanding of an issue with employees and ask follow-up questions to turn the otherwise daunting process into an open conversation.
Constructive feedback examples
Giving constructive feedback is tricky to navigate because it can easily trigger a stress response in the recipient. It’s difficult for a stressed-out person to fully grasp and internalize your message, and it might leave them feeling unappreciated, misunderstood, and less likely to improve performance.
So here are some constructive employee feedback examples that can help you navigate the waters:
Ensuring it’s the right time to deliver feedback
“Aisha, I wanted to catch up with you and discuss last week’s all-hands meeting. Is tomorrow afternoon a good time for me to schedule a call with you and discuss some feedback I have?”
Clarifying the desired outcome of the conversation
“Mike, I want to touch on a development opportunity for you, which will help you establish stronger relationships with your colleagues and team members and help you grow as a leader in the company.”
Providing context & describing the situation
“During our product session on Tuesday evening, I got the feeling that you weren’t really engaged and seemed a bit preoccupied. Can you shed some light on what was happening?"
Presenting your take on the situation
“In my opinion, your body language made it look like you were disengaged, and that impacted Danielle’s flow during the presentation.”
Making an actionable recommendation
“I understand that right now is an especially busy time, and you have a lot on your plate. To avoid missing deadlines, I think it’d be best for you to tackle your tasks in order of urgency. I’d be happy to help you if anything is unclear.”
“I’d like to address something I noticed the other day when it came to working with Matias and Lara. While the final presentation went smoothly, I noticed that you seemed a bit unsure when it came to your section. Can you help me understand why you felt hesitant about your work on the project?”
📥 Access the feedback template here
4 bonus tips on giving feedback effectively
Sharing feedback is about so much more than just improving performance. It’s about making your reports and colleagues feel valued and supported. The key to making this happen is to:
- Give feedback regularly
- Make your company culture dynamic
- Use feedback to understand your company
- Avoid disingenuous feedback-sharing practices
Let’s take a closer look at what we mean by these tips.
Give feedback regularly
Constructive or positive feedback shouldn’t just be reserved for performance reviews. Implementing a practice of instant feedback & praise helps promote a culture of rapid development by ensuring employees can receive guidance and support frequently.
For example, if you notice a team member struggling with their communication skills during a team project, it’ll be much more helpful to address that situation as quickly as possible by setting up a face-to-face meeting or video call within a week.
“[Because] by the time your quarterly performance review rolls around, you will be faced with a plethora of issues that might have been avoided had they been discussed earlier.” — Judah Longgrear, co-founder and CEO of Nickelytics
Make your company’s feedback culture dynamic
A dynamic feedback culture creates an environment where employees actively work to support colleagues and improve their own performance and skill sets.
Leapsome’s people enablement solution makes it easy to give and receive feedback on projects, goals, and achievements, improving company culture and alignment.
Our platform allows you to exchange private and public feedback with anyone in your organization, help employees turn feedback into development, and access feedback analytics.
This way, you can use feedback to understand your people, boost engagement, and bring clarity to the goals that matter most.
Use feedback to understand your company
Feedback plays a crucial role in guiding a company’s direction and overall strategy. It can also help you have effective career development conversations with employees.
As an example, constructive feedback about the company’s onboarding process can turn into a goal to make onboarding more seamless and scalable. Or an employee’s difficulties with having an eye for detail can turn into training and guidance to help them develop professionally and improve performance.
Leapsome provides a bird’s-eye view of how feedback is being addressed or used to improve the workplace.
Avoid disingenuous feedback-sharing practices
The “feedback sandwich” is an outdated feedback delivery technique that aims to soften the blow of constructive criticism.
It consists of opening the conversation with a piece of good feedback, followed by the actual constructive message, and ending with another slice of positivity.
However, this cookie-cutter approach often comes across as disingenuous and affects the levels of trust between managers and employees. Providing positive feedback is very important — but when it comes in a “sandwich” package, people find it hard to believe the praise that you do give them.
Instead, opt for more of a “bruschetta” approach. Say what you need to say and mix in the positives with the negatives — all on a growth-focused note.
⭐ Top tip: To make implementing, acting on, and tracking feedback easier for employees, consider including it as a personal development goal.
Get excited about providing feedback
Providing effective feedback is a skill that, once developed, paves the way for both company and individual growth. Besides improving performance, it realigns employee and company goals and keeps the business on track.
Fostering a workplace culture in which exchanging meaningful feedback is appreciated helps engage and fulfill employees.
So if you’re worried about honing that skill and creating that culture, remember that people enablement platforms like Leapsome are out there to help you give high-quality, actionable feedback without any awkwardness.
🚀 Build a healthy and dynamic feedback culture with Leapsome
🧰 Leapsome gives you the tools you need to increase employee engagement and improve performance!
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FAQs about giving feedback
What is the best way to give feedback?
The best way to give constructive or negative feedback to a team member is to:
- Stay focused on the problem rather than the person
- Remain objective but understanding and empathetic
- Offer meaningful and actionable suggestions on how to improve
- Give clear examples
- Offer support
- Point out what they’re doing well
- Ask for their opinion on the situation
- Remain open to conversation
How do you give feedback examples?
Some examples of effective and empathetic feedback include:
- “I appreciate how much you’ve improved in X, and I’m excited to see you continue working on developing Y and Z.”
- “During the all-hands meeting last month, I noticed some hesitation from your side when giving your presentation. I know you’ve put in a lot of effort into preparing your presentation, so I’d love to see you being more confident.”
- “Is this the right time for us to talk about X? I’d love to share some feedback on what went well and what can be improved.”
- “Thank you for the effort you put into preparing X. Going forward, I’d love to see the provided resources being used to their full potential, so we can achieve Y better.”
- “I appreciate that this is an unusually busy time for the team, and everyone is stretched rather thin. But I look forward to receiving more clear communication in terms of managing your deadlines, so we can readjust them if needed.”
- “I think X is your superpower, but I’ve noticed that Y seems to be creating some difficulties for you. What do you think?”
How do I give feedback to peers?
When giving feedback to peers and co-workers, it’s essential to keep a few things in mind:
- Ask the person if they’re in the right headspace to hear the feedback
- Remain objective
- Keep it constructive
- Be clear
- Whenever possible, lead with what the person is doing well
- Avoid “you” statements and share your perception
- Explain the impact of their growth
- Offer meaningful suggestions
- Ask their opinion on your statement
- Make giving feedback into a conversation
- Keep it short and to the point