Guidelines for Giving Feedback

An effective way to get as much productivity as possible from employees is to provide timely, helpful feedback. However, giving feedback is one of the most poorly executed management duties. 

Most managers have never received any training in giving feedback and are especially reluctant to deliver negative feedback. But, many workers would like their managers to become better at providing feedback in a constructive way if it improves their performance and career potential. 

Feedback is information about past behavior, delivered in the present, which may influence future improved performance. 

Managers often get it wrong, however. Among the most common mistakes are personalizing feedback, including extraneous detail, being too judgmental, failing to include positive observations along with negative ones, and trying to sugar-coat much-needed criticism. 


ClearRock offers these guidelines for giving feedback: 

  • Positive feedback can be offered in public or private. However, negative feedback can only be given in private. 
  • Deliver feedback in a timely manner. It is best to give feedback as close as possible to the occurrence of the behavior or issue that requires correction. 
  • Be clear, thoughtful, and respectful. Make sure the feedback you offer is accurate, specific, and is limited only to the behavior in question. 
  • Do not evade or soften criticism that needs to be delivered. Provide a detailed explanation of what is wrong and recommend ways to make adjustments. 
  • Limit feedback to those areas the employee has the ability to change. Feedback that is irrelevant will not be accepted and may even be detrimental. For example, doctors usually don’t give patients advice on how to dress.  
  • Concentrate on the positive first before giving criticism. Feedback should start with positive observations about the contributions an employee is making before detailing areas that need improvement. 
  • Use the word “I,” and not “we.” Say “I observed you…,” rather than “we observed you.” 
  • Remain non-judgmental and do not personalize feedback. Focus on the behavior that needs to be changed, and not the person. 
  • Avoid “over-dumping” on someone. Often one behavioral example is all that’s needed to help someone understand. 
  • Give the recipient a chance to respond. Listen as openly as possible, even if all you expect to receive are rationalizations. At least you will find out if your feedback has been understood. 
  • Clearly identify next steps, including additional training if needed, and a timeframe for meeting again to review progress.