HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK (entirely the wrong phrase)


This article explodes the most common mistake around “feedback” and takes you through the 8 steps of how to structure the conversation to enable lasting results.


  • The common mistake that managers make
  • The strategy for getting it right
  • The “How To” checklist
  • Other useful resources

 The common mistake that managers make

As managers we are encouraged by the word “feedback” to tell employees what we want from them. 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, so we frame the feedback around what we think we know.

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 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 of the first bit of empty flattery.  As soon as you say “but”, they will only hear the negative and completely overlook the positive.

And still we are in “feedback” mode.

This is called the “narrow frame”.

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.

The strategy for getting it right

Research shows that people tend to be more willing to accept feedback when they feel 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.

Of course it is always possible that the employee may not be able to meet your expectations but you won’t be even be able to establish that if you make them defensive at the beginning.

For the “How To Checklist” download the ebooklet here and share; it’s free so why not?

This is just the first in a series of regular ebooklets that we can deliver straight to your inbox. Just sign up (email address only…we don’t  ask for all your details) at the bottom on the right.

The next one is “How To Be Fair In A Grievance Meeting” …. now that would be worth keeping for future reference.

Useful Resources

Try our video on this topic.

In our video How To Give Feedback, you can see a manager progressing through the checklist; see the look on his face and how he phrases the questions to encourage an employee to find their own solution and take responsibility.

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


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