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How to Give Great Feedback to Employees

Explore these helpful tips on how to give great employee feedback.

Giving effective employee feedback—whether during an employee evaluation, a team meeting, or an impromptu one-on-one—can feel like a daunting task. This is especially true if you need to provide feedback on potential areas of improvement or address employee performance issues, such as poor time management or interpersonal communication skills. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve this experience for both parties and make these conversations feel less difficult to have. Here are some insightful tips on how to give great feedback to employees.


Come prepared

Though feedback can sometimes be given on the fly, a good rule of thumb is to prepare ahead of time whenever possible. For instance, if you’re responsible for conducting annual reviews and periodic employee evaluations, you’ll likely know in advance and be able to outline what will be discussed and gather the information you need. It’s important to have examples and facts on hand when discussing employee performance, whether positive or negative. Sometimes giving feedback can be unplanned, perhaps following an important meeting or presentation. In these instances, it is equally as important to demonstrate that you take providing feedback seriously, so try to organize your thoughts prior to the discussion.

Be specific

Part of being prepared to give quality feedback to an employee is your ability to cite examples. Instead of saying, “Your work this quarter has exceeded expectations,” name the specific projects and outcomes you are speaking about and detail the ways in which an employee went above and beyond. You should employ the same tactic if the feedback is negative. For instance, if an employee has demonstrated poor attention to detail, you should be able to provide instances where this was clear and the impact it had on the quality of work being produced. Substantiating your references is key in giving great feedback and allows employees to gain a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t.

Apply equal standards

Unfortunately, biases are often present in employee feedback. This is especially true in regard to gender bias. In fact, research conducted by Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research found that women and men are evaluated differently in the workplace. Key findings include:1

  • Women in the workplace are more likely to be critiqued for coming on too strong by managers.
  • The achievements of women in the workplace are more likely than men’s to be considered the result of a team effort.
  • Bosses and managers expect women to be more team-oriented; men are expected to be more independent in their roles.
  • Women are considered for support roles more often, as opposed to positions that lead to executive jobs.

In order for feedback to be effective, it should be based on equal standards that are applied fairly to all employees in the workplace.

Leverage the power of negative feedback

Believe it or not, negative feedback is sometimes preferred by employees. Often, this is the case for subject matter experts or senior professionals who have been serving in their position or industry for a substantial period of time. That’s because those who have committed to a specific role and acquired greater expertise find negative feedback to be instrumental to their growth and progress. Younger employees and/or those who are newer to a job or field, however, typically prefer positive feedback, as it provides a much-needed confidence boost.

Be mindful of your timing

Timing is everything, including when giving great employee feedback. Outside of preplanned annual performance reviews or quarterly evaluations, it’s best to address specific issues and events close to when they occur. This way, the information is still fresh in everyone’s mind. However, it’s important to be mindful of your own temperament and any negative feelings you might be experiencing following a situation that needs to be discussed. In these instances, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to cool down and collect your thoughts before giving employee feedback to ensure the conversation is as productive as possible.

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