What Every Manager Ought To Know About Giving Feedback

Free ebooklet to download

For a start “feedback” is entirely the wrong word. This article captures what smart managers have learned in the past and you can easily practice.  You will learn how to avoid making the most common mistakes and how to use the ‘wide frame’ approach for a more constructive and positive conversation.


  • The unconscious mistakes that managers make
  • How to make feedback more acceptable
  • How to use the wide frame approach instead
  • The three most common mistakes
  • Other useful resources

The Unconscious Mistakes Managers Make

As managers we see behaviours in our team that we would like improved and we say so. We think we know the solution, and often we think we know the cause as well, and so we frame the feedback around those. We are, as managers, encouraged by the word “feedback” to tell employees what we want from them.

We also tend to assume that other reasonable people will see the situation as we do. So we frame the feedback based on our view of reality using the facts as we see them.

Sometimes we try to soften the blow with a bit of flattery first or even go the whole hog and use the “good news sandwich” (something nice, something bad, and then something nice at the end). Believe me, employees can see that one coming; they are immediately suspicious with the first bit of empty flattery and then as soon as you say that word “but” they will only hear the negative and completely overlook the positive.

And still we are in “feedback” mode.

However, we became managers, on the whole, because we believe we are often correct in our view on the cause and effect of certain behaviours in others. We are most likely going to be right again and again, and some employees may never be able to reach our expectations.

This is what Jean – Francois Manzoni (2002) calls the “narrow frame”.

“It’s just that the narrow frame does not allow the employee to even try to improve because they cannot understand or agree with the feedback.”

Narrow framing tells the employee that the feedback wasn’t developed fairly. Frozen framing (based on our view of the facts) comes across as biased, closed minded, and unsupportive. (See more about Manzoni in the ebooklet.)

How To Make Feedback More Acceptable

Research shows that people tend to be more willing to accept feedback when they have the feeling that:

1 The person offering the feedback is reliable and has good intentions toward them.

2 The feedback development process is fair – that is the person giving the feedback collects all relevant information; allows the employee to clarify and explain matters; considers the employee’s opinions; and applies consistent standards when delivering criticism.

3 The feedback communication process is fair – that is, the person offering the feedback pays careful attention to the employee’s ideas; shows respect for the employee; and supports the employee despite their disagreements.

 How To Use The Wide Frame Approach Instead

  1. Ease in with the wide frame, for example:

“I understand things have not being going well for you lately? “

“How do you feel that the management meetings are going?”

Erin seems very quiet / irritated at the moment. What do you think is wrong?

  1. Look for a positive frame, for example:

“I don’t know if you are aware of this, or even if it’s true, but I have heard Frank and Joan are keen to take on more responsibility. What do you think?”

is far better than: “I don’t believe you are delegating as well as you could.”

 In Summary:

  1. Pick your own words; just make sure the question is as wide and open as possible.
  2. The wide frame ensures that the employee will see that you are genuinely interested in their perspective and that you are being fair by seeking more information.
  3. Listen to what they say; show respect for the views, discuss with them the cause and possible solutions.


Download the ebook here 


In our video “How to Deliver Negative Feedback” http://eltalking.com/video/how-to-deliver-negative-feedback-6-25-mins/ we see the three most common mistakes managers make when giving feedback in action. Download the ebook to see if you spotted them correctly.

In our e-learning module “Giving Effective Feedback” we combine two videos along with some interactive exercises to help you get results.

The ebook covers the basics of giving feedback but it’s only the beginning. We’ve been building our leadership and management development business, elconsulting, for over 20 years now. During that time, we’ve been fortunate to enjoy a lot of success but we’ve also made our share of mistakes.

What if you could benefit directly from our years of experience and avoid those mistakes?

We’ve got something to share with you. We call it eltalking, the people management toolbox, and it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done.

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