How to Give Feedback Effectively

Delivering feedback effectively is a critical part of your job as a manager. Follow these guidelines to effectively and respectfully deliver feedback to your employees.

Giving feedback to a direct report might feel intimidating, but remember: when done right, feedback can actually build trust between you and your employee.

As a manager, your direct reports need to trust that you are willing to have critical conversations about their professional development with them, even when it can feel awkward. Holding off on delivering feedback until it's too late for your  employee to take appropriate action can damage their trust in you.  As a manager, it's your job to address strengths and concerns in real time-- before an employee is surprised by a mediocre performance review.  Read on to learn how to give feedback effectively. 

  1. Be clear about areas for improvement. The biggest trap managers can fall into while either giving feedback or summarizing feedback from others is to gloss over their employee's opportunities for improvement. While it's tempting to paint a rosy picture by focusing on positive feedback, it's essential to be explicit about any constructive criticism the employee has received. 
  2. Don't forget to share positive feedback. At the same time, be sure to highlight your employee's strengths. Be clear on what they are doing well so that they know what to continue doing and what their strengths are.
  3. Provide specific examples of what your employee can do to improve.  Simply delivering feedback is not enough-- part of your job as a manager is to help your employee act on the feedback they've received. Brainstorm action items with your employee to create a plan for implementing the feedback they've received into their workflow.  
  4. Be sure that the feedback is focused on actual work performance or actions, not personality traits. In general, good feedback centers on things that the employee does, not who the employee is. Be wary of passing on any critical feedback focused on who the employee is as a person.
  5. Make it clear if a growth area is fundamental to the employee's performance in their current role as opposed to purely being a growth opportunity. Are the opportunities for improvement that you're sharing critical to the employee's performance in their current role? Or, is there an opportunity for your employee to develop skills that will help them reach the next level in their career? Your employee needs to know if something is an impediment to them succeeding in their current role so that they can prioritize taking action on those items. 
  6. Be mindful of when and where you deliver feedback. 
    As a rule of thumb, deliver feedback in private. If you have reason to believe that the conversation will be difficult, be especially careful to avoid situations in which your employee's peers could see or overhear the conversation taking place (or its aftermath). Whenever possible, give your employee the ability to "save face" after a difficult conversation. Is it possible for you to meet at the end of the day so your employee can process the feedback away from the office? 
  7. Check for understanding. Make sure your direct report is tracking with what you're saying by engaging them in a conversation. What is their initial reaction to the feedback? Is this information a surprise to them? Do they have any follow up questions for you? Make a point to ask them if they have any follow up conversations for you towards the end of your conversation.