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Giving Feedback to Employees: A Manager’s Guide

Open communication is at the heart of strong, effective relationships between the management team and employees. Providing feedback to team members is a valuable part of that communication process and can help improve job performance and workplace productivity. Learn what employee feedback is and discover a process for giving feedback to employees using best practices.

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What is employee feedback?

Employee feedback happens when you communicate information to an employee about their performance, work results, skills or other aspects of their work. This can be informal, such as an on-the-spot conversation about something the manager sees, or formal, such as feedback as part of the employee evaluation process.

Managers can shape employee behavior by providing these two types of feedback:

  • Constructive feedback: Constructive feedback is prescriptive information based on a specific area that can be improved. It might address negative behavior, such as an employee completing a task incorrectly, but it also provides them with information to improve it, instead of just criticism.
  • Positive feedback: Positive feedback is recognition and praise for excellent work. This is a way to show employee appreciation and helps your team understand what types of behaviors they should continue. 

Both constructive and positive feedback are valuable tools for employees. Including detailed examples of excellent work and areas for improvement can help your staff members optimize their job performance.

A process for providing feedback to employees

Providing feedback to employees is only effective if managers can clearly explain their feedback and employees can understand what they need to do with the information.

Follow these steps to provide clear and useable feedback for your employees:

  1. Identify the feedback
  2. Prepare notes
  3. Set a meeting
  4. Share feedback
  5. End with a positive

1. Identify the feedback

Begin by identifying areas in which the employee is performing well and areas where the employee can improve. Create a list consisting of both positive and constructive feedback to provide, and make sure that both types of feedback are equally balanced.

2. Prepare notes

Prepare an outline that notes the order in which you plan to provide feedback. Notes will help you stay focused and ensure that the employee receives all the necessary information. An employee evaluation form can help you structure your notes if you’re giving formal feedback.

3. Set a meeting

Schedule a one-on-one meeting with the employee. Give them time to prepare for the meeting and ask them to consider areas in which they think they’re performing well and areas in which they can improve. This will help facilitate a constructive conversation and allow them to provide an honest assessment of their work performance.

4. Share feedback

Share your feedback with the employee in a private meeting. Structure the meeting as a conversation, and give the employee space to share their thoughts. Make sure the feedback you provide focuses only on the employee’s work performance and professional behavior. Don’t allow the conversation to veer off-topic or become too personal or emotional.

5. End with a positive

Conclude the feedback meeting with your last piece of positive feedback. Ending on a positive note shows the employee they’re a valuable part of your company. Providing a positive send-off allows them to leave the meeting with a sense of accomplishment instead of a focus on the areas that need to be improved.

Three best practices for providing feedback to employees

As you work on improving feedback for team members, it can help to keep effective practices in mind. Here are three best practices to implement when crafting feedback for an employee:

Feedback should be specific

All feedback to employees should be specific. Vague comments don’t help workers improve. For example, simply telling a team member their performance needs to improve doesn’t highlight what to change. They need to know what specifically is wrong with their performance. Is their productivity too low? Is their work not meeting your quality standards? When giving feedback to employees, whether positive or constructive, make sure to include specific details, such as dates of work and specific tasks or projects they worked on.

Example: You gave great details on how we plan to improve the quality assurance practices during the presentation on Tuesday, rather than Nice work presenting on Tuesday.

Feedback should be fixable

Manager feedback to employees should provide a prescription. Workers should leave the feedback meeting with a clear understanding of what they need to do to improve their work.

Example: Going forward, we need you to use graphs instead of written reports to document your monthly sales, rather than Make your sales easier to understand.

Feedback should be prompt

Give feedback as soon as possible. If you’re providing feedback on a presentation or work product, set a meeting for a few days after the event. If you’re providing quarterly feedback, give examples from the employee’s most recent work.

Example: Include web citations in your next research analysis, rather than Your first research analysis of the year was missing info.

Employee feedback tips

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind as you prepare to give feedback to an employee:

  • Be consistent: Staff can become nervous when they learn they’re going to receive feedback. Make employee feedback a regular part of your communication with your team to ease tensions and normalize receiving constructive ideas for improvement.
  • Offer balanced feedback: Keep constructive feedback balanced with positive feedback. Demonstrate to your employees that their contributions to the company are seen and valued. Make sure your team members know that constructive feedback is meant to help them advance and not given to criticize their work.
  • Make it conversational: Feedback meetings should be conversational. Allow the employee to identify areas for growth and provide resources for development as needed.

Positive employee feedback examples

Seeing real-life examples can help you learn how to give more effective feedback. Here are some examples of positive feedback to praise an employee’s performance:

Positive feedback for working overtime: We really appreciate that you put in some extra hours to help the company during this busy time. Thanks to your efforts, we were able to reach the deadline without any issues.

Positive feedback on work performance: You did a fantastic job on our latest project. I appreciate your attention to detail and ability to stay focused on the task at hand.

Positive feedback on training another employee: Thank you for taking the time to train our new team member. She’s quickly learning her position thanks to your excellent leadership skills and positive attitude.

Constructive employee feedback examples

Constructive feedback can be a little more challenging. You want to share useful information without being too negative. Here are some constructive examples to consider when providing feedback to employees:

Constructive feedback on work performance: I’ve always appreciated your hard work and commitment to the company; however, I’ve noticed your sales have declined in the past few weeks, and you’ve been absent from work twice in the past month. I just wanted to connect with you and offer my support to help you get back on track.

Constructive feedback on a complaint from an employee/coworker: I wanted to meet with you face to face to talk to you about something that’s come to my attention. A few of your coworkers expressed their concern to me regarding interactions you’ve had with them lately. They feel you’ve been argumentative and combative during team meetings, which is making them uncomfortable. This surprised me because this isn’t how you normally behave. I’d like to hear your side of the story and offer my support in finding a resolution so everyone in the office feels comfortable and productive.

Frequently asked questions about providing feedback to employees

When should I give employee feedback?

Your team of employees should receive feedback after a significant presentation or work product submission and at regular intervals throughout the year. Providing feedback after a significant work event can help the employee immediately improve and recognize areas of strength related directly to the skills necessary for the event. Regular feedback, sometimes called an employee evaluation, allows managers and staff members to reflect together on the employee’s overall job performance.

Why should I give employee feedback?

Employee feedback serves several purposes. First, it allows managers to foster relationships and rapport with their employees. Second, it provides workers with valuable information about their work performance and product. Third, it demonstrates to the employee that their work is seen and valued. Well-executed feedback should improve an employee’s work performance over the long term, which will lead to continued company success.

Should I give group feedback?

Generally, feedback should be provided on a one-on-one basis, particularly if it’s constructive feedback. However, if you’re giving feedback on a work product created by a team and you’re not sure how to divide the feedback, a team feedback meeting may be necessary. In this case, try to give constructive criticism to the group as a whole rather than individually.

What is employee self-feedback?

Employee self-feedback, also referred to as an employee self-evaluation, lets employees exercise self-awareness by documenting their strengths and weaknesses at work. Employee self-evaluations are submitted to employers via email or written documents, and employees are required to honestly address both positive achievements and areas that could use improvement. Employers who utilize the self-evaluation practice usually require employees to submit evaluations at least once a year.

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