How to Give Effective Feedback in the Workplace

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effective workplace feedback

Thoughtful feedback in the workplace is an essential part of any employee’s development. By learning what areas they’re excelling in—and what points they might improve on—workers can fine-tune their skills and enjoy new levels of success.

As an employer, you want to do all you can to ensure your employees thrive. After all, when your team is succeeding, your organization is succeeding. However, it can be challenging to walk the fine line of giving constructive feedback without offending someone or hurting their feelings. Discover how to provide effective feedback in the workplace below.

Why Feedback Is Essential for Employee Development

Clear, specific feedback benefits employers, employees, and organizations. When someone receives relevant, valuable, and actionable feedback, they can use that information to improve their performance. It lets them know what’s going well (what they should keep doing) and what isn’t going well (where they could improve).

The fundamental objective of feedback is to improve performance, not to criticize, demean, or discourage. Employees can use this information to level up their skills, allowing them to take on new responsibilities. As they develop, they’ll have new opportunities open up for them in the workplace, and can advance in their careers.

When individual employees level up their performance, entire teams can improve their output, for example, by boosting efficiency and productivity. When entire teams enhance their efficiency and productivity, companies can streamline operations.

Tips for Providing Effective Feedback in the Workplace

Feedback can be provided verbally or in writing. Either way, there are a few concrete rules to follow when giving feedback.

Pick the Format, Time, and Place

Decide whether you’ll give verbal or written feedback and plan accordingly. For example, if you’re giving verbal feedback, choose a quiet time and place, like a private office, at the end of the workday. Similarly, consider timing and format when delivering written feedback. For example, you may not want to send a feedback email just as someone is headed into a meeting.

Make Your Feedback Specific

Feedback should build employees up, not tear them down. The key to constructive criticism is to focus on solutions. Instead of telling an employee, “You aren’t working hard enough,” reframe the question more specifically, “I noticed your KPIs have dipped in the last couple of weeks. Is there something holding you back from meeting your goals?” You can then discuss proactive solutions to those barriers.

Focus on Actions, Not the Person

Feedback should always home in on concrete actions and behaviors. It should never cast judgment on who the individual is as a person. For example, say an employee never speaks in meetings. Instead of saying, “You’re very quiet,” you might say something like, “It would be great if we could hear more of your ideas in meetings.” This way, you’re focusing on an action (speaking up in meetings) instead of on a personality trait (being a quiet person).

Create a Continuous Feedback Loop

Don’t just offer feedback once; expect a change that solves everything. Make feedback a regular part of your employee evaluation process. For example, employees will automatically see feedback as unfavorable if you only provide feedback when something is wrong. However, this negative connotation disappears if you make feedback part of your working routine—say, scheduling feedback meetings every two weeks, good or bad, rain or shine. 

Casey Schmalacker

Casey Schmalacker, Vice President at New Frontiers, is a seasoned leader in marketing, sales, and business development. With a dual degree in Government and Law and Economics from Lafayette College, he has spent the past 10 years coaching students, adults, and organizations to improve executive functions, soft skills, and workplace performance. Casey’s approach is rooted in strategic development and a passion for personalized coaching, emphasizing a culture of continuous improvement.

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