10 Painless Ways to Give Constructive Employee Feedback


Young-Nerd-Boy-Hates-Eating-Broccoli-484894842_2125x1416 (1).jpegMarc Effron, publisher of Talent Quarterly, once said about employee feedback:

“Feedback is the broccoli of conversations. It’s not very appetizing and we’d prefer something else if possible, but deep down we know that ultimately it’s good for us.” 

I actually love broccoli. You know what makes broccoli delicious? A little butter and salt. Or cheese…or ranch, if it’s raw. Maybe Marc was onto something though. With the right condiments and the right conditions, we can make employee feedback a little more appealing and a little less painful to swallow. 

Our annual report on employee engagement trends found the largest decline in engagement was directly related to managers not giving regular, constructive feedback on job performance. It can be incredibly difficult to tell your staff what they aren't doing well, but it is critical for their ability to grow and improve.


Free Download: A Practical Guide to Giving and Receiving Employee Feedback


Not sure how to make employee feedback more palatable? Here are 10 strategies for successful conversations about your employees' performance.


1. Recognize that Broccoli Will Never Be Ice Cream

Can we all start by accepting that in most cases feedback, especially corrective feedback, is always going to be a little uncomfortable? Growth isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable. The phrase, “No pain, no gain,” exists for a reason.

Accepting this helps everyone move on from the pain and focus on potential positive outcomes of using feedback for growth. As the feedback giver, be understanding. Admit to the receiver that you know this is difficult, that you know you’re giving them broccoli when they’d rather have ice cream.

Brain research has identified that performance feedback can trigger a fight or flight response. Understanding this research and becoming more self-aware can help both the giver and receiver reduce the pain of feedback


2. Simmer in a Feedback Base

Every company has rules, whether written or unwritten, about how feedback is handled. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization. When feedback is part of your culture, it becomes expected and supported by the organization.

You can create a feedback culture using a variety of methods. Even if your company doesn’t have a strong feedback culture, individual managers can take some of the same steps to create a feedback culture on their team.


3. Serve It Up Like a Staple

The more you serve a dish at the dinner table, the more common it becomes. When something is unexpected, it’s a little more difficult to accept.

If feedback is given and received regularly, it will feel like a normal part of business. With more regularity, people have more opportunities to practice giving and receiving it. As these skills improve, giving feedback becomes less painful.


4. Ask for Seconds

Encourage employees to ask for feedback regularly. When an employee asks for feedback, they’re more prepared to receive it.

You can model this behavior by asking for feedback on your work regularly and taking the feedback well. If you’re a manager, coach your employees to ask for feedback from you and others.


5. Break Bread

Invest in relationships. A strong relationship between the feedback giver and receiver ensures that the receiver trusts the giver and the giver has the recipient’s best interests at heart. In order for feedback to be successful, the receiver must view the giver as credible and also trust the giver.

6. Create a Meal Plan

Take some time for preparation before you meet with someone to give feedback. Think about what you’re going to say and how you will say it. Take into consideration how personality traits get in the way of feedback and how you can adjust your communication. Be candid, but don’t wing it as you go along.


7. Make Nutritious Delicious

Feedback is nutritious; it gives us the opportunity for growth. When you’re delivering feedback, state it in a way that shows you care about the person’s growth. Try to coach, rather than evaluate. Provide guidance and mentorship, rather than finger pointing and condescendence. Remind the person why you want him or her to succeed.


8. Let Them See the Menu

Feedback is more painful when we don’t see it coming. Give the feedback receiver a heads up that you want to give him or her some feedback. Try not to give the receiver too much time that he or she dwells, but give enough time that the receiver can mentally prepare and not be taken off guard.


9. Choose the Right Ingredients

When giving feedback, make sure it includes the right ingredients. Here are a few tips:

  • Be timely. Allow for a cooling-off time period, if needed. Don’t let feedback fester. Don’t let so much time pass that the receiver or giver has forgotten the details.
  • Be specific. Being broad isn’t actionable for the receiver.
  • Stick to facts. Talk about actions and the impact of those actions, rather than intent or motives.
  • Focus on the behavior, instead of the person. Use “I” statements, “I’ve noticed…” or “I’ve observed…”
  • Provide solutions. Explain what you’d like to see. Help the receiver by giving specific steps or a path to improvement. Set goals to monitor and evaluate.

10. Deliver a Balanced Diet

Finally, make sure you’re dosing out a balanced diet of both positive and corrective feedback. Everyone likes being recognized for good work. It’s important to recognize successes and value employee contributions. At the same time, performance problems can’t be ignored. Corrective feedback is critical to the growth of employees and your company. 


Free ebook! A Practical Guide to Giving and Receiving Employee Feedback With a Growth Mindset!

Published April 19, 2017 | Written By Hilary Wright