5 Tips for Giving Effective Employee Feedback

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Culture Code" by Daniel Coyle. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s your approach to giving employee feedback? What aspects of giving feedback do you find most difficult?

Giving employee feedback can be tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to sound too critical or judgmental, and on the other, you want to be as straightforward as possible to make sure the feedback is acted upon.

Here are five tips for giving effective employee feedback.

How to Give Employee Feedback

Employee feedback is one of the most overlooked aspects of modern work cultures. But when done right, employee feedback can greatly improve performance and boost morale. Follow these five tips to give effective employee feedback.

Tip 1: Avoid “Sandwich Feedback”

“Sandwich Feedback” is the process of delivering feedback in a “positive-negative-positive” format (start with a positive comment, give an area of improvement, and end with another positive comment). This style of feedback can be confusing and doesn’t communicate the information clearly. Give positive and negative feedback separately:

  • Handle negative feedback through dialogue. Discuss areas of improvement, focusing on how to improve, not necessarily on the failure itself. 
  • Deliver positive feedback using energetic praise and authenticity. Genuine enthusiasm motivates and inspires hard-working employees.

Tip 2: Be Candid, Not Brutal

You don’t want to demoralize or embarrass the person you are giving feedback to, but, at the same time, you need to be straightforward with your feedback. The best approach is to aim for candor: make your feedback specific and avoid making it personal or judgmental.

Tip 3: Separate Performance and Development Discussions

Often, performance and development feedback are grouped into one discussion. Combining these two conversations blurs your intentions and lessens impact because the conversations, though similar, occur under different pretenses:

  • Performance evaluations are inescapably judgmental and high-risk. They often impact salary and promotion status and do not touch on growth or improvement.
  • Professional development, on the other hand, focuses on discussing strengths and offering support for weaknesses. These discussions do not correlate to compensation and tend to feel more like a coaching session in which leadership can present opportunities for growth.

Tip 4: Use Belonging Cues in Your Feedback

Belonging cues remind people that your feedback is meant to be constructive and helpful. When team members know they are appreciated and cared for, they are much more receptive to critique. 

When giving feedback, ensure that team members know the following:

  • They are valuable.
  • They are part of a special group with high expectations.
  • They have the capacity to match and exceed those expectations.

Tip 5: Give Feedback Regularly

As you begin developing feedback meetings, standardize them and schedule them consistently. The more often you give feedback, the more steadfast the team will be at acting upon it.

5 Tips for Giving Effective Employee Feedback

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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