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GuidesEmployee experience16 tips for giving effective employee feedback (with examples)

16 tips for giving effective employee feedback (with examples)

Last updated

13 January 2024


Claire Bonneau

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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Feedback is essential for learning, growing, and improving, yet you’ll probably know that familiar feeling of dread that washes over you when a manager invites you to an annual review.

So, what makes employee feedback so challenging to navigate? As a manager or leader, what can you do to improve this experience for you and your team?

Poor timing, disorganization, and outdated management practices often impact an employee’s experience of receiving helpful and constructive feedback. Managers need training and practice to deliver feedback in a way that avoids disheartening and negative experiences. Such feedback can help motivate employees to do a great job.

Read this helpful guide to deep dive into employee feedback, including the different types, tips for giving feedback more effectively, and best practices to make your next employee feedback session more enjoyable for everyone involved.

What is employee feedback?

Employee feedback is the practice of providing positive and constructive insights about a person’s performance and work with the aim of helping them grow and improve.

Helpful insights can be identified through peer-to-peer feedback and employee-to-management feedback. However, most employee feedback comes from the top down (from management to team members).

Feedback can come in many different forms and levels of formality. Simple compliments like “Hey Susan, great work on the latest version of the slide deck!” count as employee feedback in the same way as a formal written end-of-year review. Teams looking to create a culture of effective feedback understand the relevance of time and situation when using specific types of employee feedback.

Your team’s productivity, engagement, and efficiency are deeply tied to how respected and appreciated they feel at work. This is something effective employee feedback can help build and support over time.

Why effective employee feedback is important

Beyond helping your teammates improve their daily performance, providing regular employee feedback benefits not just the people involved but the organization as a whole.

When used correctly, employee feedback provides the following benefits:

Helping keep employees motivated

Recognizing and supporting your employees through thoughtful feedback helps keep them engaged and motivated at work. According to Gallup, employees are 3.6 times more likely to be motivated to do great work when they receive daily feedback from their manager.

Reducing staff turnover

Feedback is essential for making people feel valued and appreciated. Without it, your employees are more likely to leave your team for other work opportunities. Teams that routinely receive feedback have 14.9% lower attrition rates compared to those that don’t.

Less time and resources wasted

According to Indeed, it can cost a company anywhere between $4,000–20,000 to replace a worker who has chosen to leave the team.

You can avoid these unnecessary costs and keep your team engaged and working for your brand by investing in feedback training to keep your employees and project managers happy.

Types of employee feedback

For the purposes of this article, we’ll divide feedback into two primary types:

  1. Positive (what people did well)

  2. Constructive (what people need to improve upon)

Within these categories, feedback can be given formally, informally, in writing, verbally, or even in a report—so be sure to match formatting and style with tone and timing when you speak to your employees.

Examples of positive employee feedback

Positive feedback is complimentary, supportive, and encouraging. Its aim is to reinforce good behavior and recognize an employee’s efforts. Managers should strive to provide this type of feedback regularly to ensure their team feels appreciated and valued.

Positive feedback should be more than a simple compliment. It should be specific to a situation or action. Try to call out a particular action or result that was beneficial to the team or company. Your positive feedback should make the person feel warm and fuzzy with support, motivated, and interested in continuing their great work.

Here are some examples of positive feedback that you can use in different situations to praise and support your team for their good work:

Showing team appreciation

“I wanted to let you know that I have been so grateful for your leadership skills throughout this big product launch. I know it has been a busy time of year, but I’ve seen how much you have stepped up to help your peers.

“I really appreciate how much you have helped the entire team over the past few months. Your contributions are not going unnoticed, so thank you again for everything you have done this quarter!”

Complimenting individual contributions

“You have been absolutely crushing it with the feature development lately! I am constantly blown away by your new ideas, especially how you handled our recent bug fix so calmly and efficiently. You are a valuable member of this team, and your work has such a positive impact on all of us.”

Praising actions that improve company culture

“Wow, this company potluck was so well-organized! I know how hard it can be to get everyone to participate, but I really appreciate the effort you put in to make this such a hit. I love how you encouraged people to bring foods from their cultures so we could learn more about everyone’s backgrounds and experiences. You are a vital part of this company’s culture, and we are so lucky to have you!”

Thanking someone for doing extra work

“I just wanted to say thank you for your hard work lately. I know there’s been a lot of extra work on your plate with the recent hiring shuffle, and I have been very impressed with how you have navigated your new tasks without missing deadlines or sacrificing work quality. Is there anything I can do to help you keep up the excellent work? How has your work–life balance been lately?”

Highlighting helpful actions

“Thank you so much for stepping up and dealing with that difficult client calmly and professionally. I know it’s never easy to take the brunt of someone’s frustration, but your friendly and authentic energy was such a helpful tool during that entire interaction. You kept calm and professional. It was a master class in great customer service.”

Complimenting growth within the job

“Look at you, running your first all-hands meeting like an absolute pro! I remember how nervous you were to participate in company-wide activities when you first started here. It’s been amazing to see you progress and improve throughout your career!”

Congratulating someone on a completed project

“Congratulations on crushing your first sprint! It can be a stressful and busy time, but you handle everything the team throws at you so well. Your coding specifically blew me away—so much high-quality work done so efficiently. Some other team members have told me how impressed they have been with your work—so keep it up. Again, congrats on the recent launch!”

Appreciating someone’s soft skills

“You are such a warm, kind, and relatable person. I have noticed how the team turns to you when they feel overwhelmed, and they always leave a conversation with you feeling appreciated and heard. Being approachable isn’t an easy skill to master. Is there anything I can do to make things less stressful for you?”

Examples of constructive employee feedback

Constructive feedback is used to help redirect employees’ actions or efforts and highlight areas for improvement to help them excel in their roles.

As a kinder and more effective alternative to negative feedback (which, in many cases, is taken as an insult by the person receiving it), constructive feedback aims to give concrete examples of things that can be improved while supporting continual growth.

Constructive feedback can impact the employee emotionally, even if you have good intentions. Because of this, it’s important to choose the right approach and time to provide these types of comments. For example, you’ll want to avoid giving constructive feedback in front of large groups.

With this in mind, here are some examples of constructive feedback that you can add to your management toolbox:

Redirecting a misaligned task

“Thank you so much for organizing and kick-starting this brief! I think this resource will be very helpful for our content team once we focus the project scope further. In its current state, I think it’s too vague in the direction and expectations sections. Do you think we could add some extra context to those sections so the team finds it easier to approach?”

Calling for improved communication

“I’ve noticed that you haven’t been very responsive in the team chat during working hours lately. Is everything okay on your end? While we never expect everyone to get back to each other immediately, being accessible during working hours is essential for our team to work together effectively. Is there anything I can do to help you be more present and responsive at work?”

Making suggestions after a presentation

“Great work on the client pitch meeting run-through! Can I share some of my thoughts with you?

“I noticed how engaging and present you are as a speaker right off the bat, which is great. You were able to make even some of the dryer sections more interesting, and I really liked how you connected everything back to how the client benefits.

“To improve, is there any way you could shorten the ‘about us’ section to get into the more important parts faster? I also found it hard to follow along during the data-heavy slides. Can we use a chart or graph to highlight the essential points instead?”

Drawing attention to areas that need improvement

“I just wanted to catch up with you about our recent sprint. You did a great job with the new feature coding, but I think app development would be a great area for you to receive more training in.

“Would you be interested in taking a course? I can research some options. If you’re interested, you can pick the one that seems the most interesting to you. I think this learning would be a great asset to you and the team as you progress through your career, so let’s prioritize this skill for you during the next quarter.”

Commenting on workplace disengagement

“I’ve recently noticed that you have been participating less during our weekly meetings. Is everything okay? I can usually count on you to come to meetings prepared and organized. But recently, you seem to be less engaged with work. Is there anything I can help you with? Are any processes getting in your way?

“I’ll take a look at your workload and see if there’s anything I can do to make it more manageable. And please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have been feeling frustrated or overwhelmed at work.”

Addressing missed deadlines

“I’ve noticed that you have missed a few key deadlines recently. I understand how hard it can be to keep track of everything when we keep throwing new projects your way, but I need to be kept in the loop regarding your workload and capacity so I can manage client expectations.

“In most cases, with enough notice, I can move deadlines to be flexible for your needs. Moving forward, can I ask you to check in with me once a week to discuss your capacity and ability to meet the set deadlines? We often have other team members who can step up and help out, so you don’t need to take the brunt of these projects on your own.”

Talking about mistakes and errors

“Hey, thanks for meeting me to chat about your recent project.

“First, I want to address how busy it has been recently. Even if we do our best, mistakes happen. With that being said, I really want this to be a learning opportunity to prevent this from happening again in the future. These types of mistakes can damage our brand reputation and negatively impact the entire team.

“Would you mind sharing some information about how this mistake happened? Do you have any suggestions for protocols or systems we could implement to prevent it from happening again? Please let me know if there is anything I can do to set up team-wide policies to better protect us against this type of error in the future.”

Identifying and correcting unacceptable workplace behavior

“This is not a comfortable conversation to have, but I need to discuss your recent behavior during the staff party. I know you have been feeling stressed lately, but I felt you were rude and condescending to our team during what was supposed to be a fun, good-spirited event. Your behavior made many team members uncomfortable, and these actions are not tolerated at this company.

“Please personally apologize to the team members you spoke with during the event. In the future, please book an appointment with me to chat about any workplace stresses or problems rather than sharing them openly during a social event.”

Good vs bad feedback: What to do and what to avoid

No matter the type of feedback you share with employees, you can always improve the experience for both of you by sticking to the principles below.

Effective feedback

Be clear and specific

The best feedback is easy to understand and follow up on. When giving feedback, avoid confusion, frustration, and disengagement by directly referencing areas your employee is excelling in and areas where they can improve.

Include actionable steps

Help your employees make improvements that better their careers and the team as a whole by suggesting clear and actionable steps they can take to meet the desired goal.

Focus on future growth

Effective feedback should inspire both short-term and long-term improvements. Include future-oriented goals and outcomes in your feedback to help your employees reach their career aspirations (this also helps keep employees motivated and engaged, which is always a win!).

Be objective and fact-based

Great feedback will focus on objective, measurable ways in which the person can improve without including personal bias. Feedback should be less focused on what you like and more focused on objective measurements that can be addressed over time.

There’s a time and a place for sharing your personal opinions. For example, there’s nothing wrong with complimenting something that you like about someone’s work—but this shouldn’t take place when providing professional feedback.

Ineffective feedback

Even well-intended feedback can be harmful when delivered in certain ways. Avoid the following mistakes when giving feedback to reduce the risk of a negative employee interaction:

Focusing on past failures

No one wants to listen to their manager list off all the things they haven’t executed to perfection. This type of feedback is uninspiring and demotivating. Instead, focus on the employee’s performance as a whole, discussing both the positives and areas for improvement.

Being vague and general

It’s not easy for employees to act on feedback that lacks a clear point or direction. Help your team get the most out of your feedback by avoiding vague claims.

For example, instead of saying, “You did a great job,” you might say something more specific, like, “You were a great team player this year. We noticed your efforts on the new client projects, and we appreciate your hard work!”

Sharing personal opinions

Employee feedback isn’t an opportunity for you to share your personal opinions. Avoid leaning on your personal views or preferences when giving your colleagues feedback. Instead, provide objective statements and suggest measurable action steps for a stronger impact.

Not providing actionable steps to improve

Feedback that lacks actionable steps can be interpreted as an insult rather than constructive advice. To soften the impact and make the feedback more beneficial, strive to suggest actionable steps that give the employee a clear path of improvement to follow.

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