Developing Your Talent

Handle With Care: Five Tips for Delivering Feedback

By JC Heinen on November 19, 2012

While feedback is often difficult to deliver, it can also be uncomfortable to receive, especially if not handled properly. When assessing performance, well-delivered feedback can be an opportunity for learning, professional development and motivation. When feedback is delivered in an insensitive manner, it can result in unresolved resentment that may have a long-lasting impact on an employee’s productivity.

Here are five tips for improving how you deliver a message that is constructive and productive:

  1. Keep feedback specific and issue-based. Be prepared to provide recent examples and how the behavior and/or error could affect the team or project.
  2. Avoid absolutes.  Stay away from words such as “always”, “never” and even “usually.” Absolutes can trigger a defensive response from an employee who will offer up examples to refute the feedback.
  3. Do it in private. Talk to the employee where other team members can’t overhear. The same goes for email. If you’re responding to a group email and have feedback directed toward one person, take it off line and contact that person one-on-one rather than hitting “Reply All” to avoid publicly humiliating that individual.
  4. Timing is everything. Difficult feedback needs be timed close to the event, and after you have all the facts. If you’ve reactive in haste and your facts are found to be in error, acknowledge your mistake and apologize. An apology is evidence of your integrity and diffuses any lingering feelings of unfairness.
  5. Don’t send mixed messages. Avoid “softening the blow” by co-mingling positive and negative feedback. Some managers start off by stating the employees’ good qualities, followed by “but …” and then criticism. This pattern is confusing to the employee who feels that the good qualities were negated by what came after the “but.” Share positive feedback separately and on an ongoing basis.

Constructive feedback – whether positive or developmental – is the foundation of employee development and enhanced performance. Be sure you’re having regular coaching conversations that build, strengthen and reinforce positive behaviors.

One Response to “Handle With Care: Five Tips for Delivering Feedback”

  1. Cynthia D.

    Especially appeciate the comment about “be prepared with specific examples.” It’s always been frustrating to me to receive negative feedback during an annual performance review that was generic to the point of uselessness – if you want me to improve (follow-through, communication, etc) – help me do that by citing specific times when I let the ball drop so I can figure out what might have caused the slip.


Leave a Reply