Feedback is an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly, allowing for continued development and growth. Particularly within the workplace, we are constantly looking for new areas of improvement – understanding exactly what it is we can do differently to make us more efficient, effective and productive in the long run.

There are a number of methods managers tend to utilise when providing constructive feedback, but these common practices are rarely successful in actually offering guidance to develop the employee in question. In fact, many managers or business owners tend to dread reviews or evaluation; the process tends to be met with awkwardness and discomfort – some employees may even think you are negatively targeting them.

So, it leads us to the topic of how to give feedback that will truly be beneficial to your team. In this article, we’ll be highlighting the best methods and how to bridge the potentially difficult review conversation with our top tips. As a result, you’ll then be able to confidently provide constructive criticism that will significantly improve the performance of the individuals within your business, and therefore your overall companies too.

#1 Use the STAR model

One of the most effective tools that you should be taking advantage of when providing a review after a particular stand-out issue or challenge is the STAR model. You may be scratching your head, what exactly is this model? The acronym stands for:

  • Situation/Task: What was the situation that occurred? For example, “we had a customer complaining about bad service”
  • Action: What action was taken by the employee? Providing specific detail, such as “calmed the customer down by actively listening and offering compensation”
  • Result: What was the final outcome of this action? Whether it is positive or not i.e. “Having successfully calmed the customer down, the employee went on to make the sale”

This method requires you to concisely, clearly comment on an event in the workplace and it can be utilised for both positive situations and those that require improvement. By explaining the result of the action taken, the employee will be aware of how they impacted the situation. Therefore, it is likely they will take on board this feedback and implement a change in their behaviour (or if positive, they will continue to do the same knowingly).

#2 Be specific

When we’re asked how to give feedback, we always circle back to the importance of specificity. If you aren’t honing in and providing exact detail on areas that require improvement, how can you expect an employee to progress?

Avoid generic feedback such as “good job” or “your work needs improvement” as these vague comments can come across insincere or lead to confusion. An employee won’t thank you for leaving them in the dark! They’ll want to set SMART targets to correct or continue towards their development. But, to encourage and allow for this behaviour, you must offer the right corrective feedback – and, of course, don’t forget to also bring awareness to specific situations that were performed excellently. 

#3 Make it timely, make it regular

The closer to the event you can address the issue, the better. It is far easier to amend one issue as and when it arises than wait until an annual review. Your employee may feel disheartened if you allow them to continue underperforming for such a long period of time. 

Now, this feedback doesn’t need to be given in a formal setting – quickly pulling the employee in question to the side will ensure they can recall and understand exactly where the area of improvement was. Ultimately, this is far more valuable than bombarding an individual with a host of issues annually, or even monthly. If you give small nuggets of constructive feedback weekly – even daily, then the process will become less daunting and, what’s more, when these more formal reviews do come up, there will be less discomfort and fewer surprises for the employee. 

Remember, feedback is an ongoing process – there more you can give, the more likely it is your team’s performance will improve. 

#4 Trial the 360-degree method

Whilst it will not be effective for all organisations, the 360-degree method can be a useful device as it enables you to build a full picture of an individual from several perspectives. Managers and peers around an employee will be asked to anonymously provide honest feedback about the individual in question. This may reveal new areas of strength or weakness you were previously unaware of, allowing you to incorporate some of these comments and suggestions made by others into the appraisal.  

The 360-degree approach enables you to see the perspective of those that may work more closely with the employee; however, it’s important to understand if there is any ‘bad blood’ between colleagues as this may otherwise be revealed, with the potential for inappropriate anonymous comments within this method. Furthermore, while this tool can provide essential insight, it should not be relied upon as a basis or guide for an employee’s review – the core should still come from the employee’s managers/you.  

how to give feedback

#5 Always in private

Feedback should always (and we can’t stress this enough, always!) be given in private. 

How to give feedback is often met with fear, but one of the most valuable takeaways is to ensure any review or constructive criticism is given in private. This isn’t to say that it need be a formal setting, but it should be provided when the employee can have time to process this feedback. If you call someone out for a mistake in front of their colleagues, they may feel uncomfortable or in the worst case victimised. Even praise should be avoided where possible in public, as many individuals prefer to not be the centre of attention or your positive comment could come across as condescending. 

If you can wait to provide feedback, positive or constructive, in private, the employee is far more likely to reflect and respond to the point you have made. By waiting for a private moment, you will also be able to think more about the feedback you are giving – allowing you to offer more thoughtful insight. 

#6 Face-to-face vs. written feedback

Face-to-face feedback is far superior to written reviews, but when combined these methods can have a significant impact in encouraging an employee to notice and adapt. Where many go wrong when providing constructive criticism is they fail to prepare. This is where written feedback comes into play; if you can note down your comments, you’ll be able to confidently put across your points. And, what’s more, you can then give your written feedback to the employee to walk away with. 

You are, in effect, reinforcing the initial face-to-face message with this takeaway reminder. As a result, your employee will be able to remind themselves of your comments and act accordingly.  

#7 Open up the opportunity for discussion, a two-way street

When giving constructive feedback, you need to give the recipient the opportunity to respond. You may presume you know why they behaved a certain way or took a particular action. However, you should open up the conversation and ask them for their take on the situation too. There are always two sides to a story!

Perhaps there was justification for making the decision they took, or maybe they didn’t realise they were expected to behave/act a certain way. If you can have an open conversation about the event in question, both you and the recipient will benefit far more.

#8 Don’t exaggerate

It’s easy to exaggerate a situation through your use of language, you may drop an “always” or “never” and suddenly you’ve started the conversation on a bad foot. Going back to our second point, you need to be specific and detail an incident or event rather than using generic, blanketing comments. 

If you exaggerate a situation, the employee is likely to become defensive – they may be offended and feel as though you haven’t truly paid attention to their performance. Specific, effective feedback will target a moment, rather than encompassing all an employee’s work. 

#9 Follow up and keep the conversation going

We’ve already touched on opening up a discussion, however, a feedback session should not abruptly end there. To encourage and motivate the recipient to change their behaviour and adapt, you need to touch base frequently. Ensure the employee in question sets targets, or set these together and check in to see how progress is being made. 

The more you follow up with your employee, the more likely they are to want to improve their performance and showcase their development to you. Using feedback frequently in your day-to-day management will ensure constructive criticism is not met with surprise and becomes a part of your organisation’s culture. 

How to give feedback: Providing feedback in the future…

Learning how to give effective feedback is crucial for the continued development of your employees and, as a result, your business too. The key is to be specific, timely and consistent. Utilising the tips we’ve outlined above will ensure you can deliver constructive criticism – or praise, that will have an effect and ultimately, shape your employees into the very best versions of themselves. 

It can be difficult to understand exactly how to provide feedback that gets results without dedicated support or expertise to draw upon. So, if you need advice or specific training, we can help. Contact me today at or call +44 (0)1483 24 33 81 and we’ll be more than happy to discuss how we can help you.

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