Giving Employee Feedback

Philip Cleave
January 4, 2024
Manager providing feedback to a colleague

Staff feedback is an amazingly powerful tool. And when it’s performed effectively, it has the capacity to grow and develop your employees and boost the levels of communications and trust between staff, managers and your wider organization.

Yet, for many people in the workplace, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the feedback they’ve received is often less than happy memories of their last performance review. In many cases, the traditional annual performance review fails to inspire excitement or confidence and is not always conducive to improving overall productivity.

By contrast, if you can nurture a culture of feedback, where you’re actively engaging and collecting feedback from your staff on a more regular basis, you’re more likely to see the desired affects you want from your workforce.

Consequently, we’ll go on to explore four key areas where giving staff feedback can make a huge difference to how positively they can contribute to your organization.

Feedback on employee performance

When you consider the many different duties and responsibilities each staff member has within an organization, it shouldn’t be too hard to appreciate what impact their ability to carry out these duties will have on your organization. So, the better they can perform the more successful your business will be.

Yet, if you’re to optimize their performance in terms of the quality and efficiency of their work, you’ll need to find ways of bringing out and maintaining their full potential. Besides getting the views of their line manager, this requires monitoring and tracking their performance, and listening to what they have to say, which can be best achieved with an employee performance survey.

From asking them to rate their overall performance and how able they are to maximize their skills and abilities, to how satisfied they are with the support and resources available to them and opportunities to contribute their ideas. The employee performance survey covers key areas that will help you to identify where an individual employee may need more support.

Sample questions that can help you with this include:

Overall, how would you rate your performance at [Company]?

  • Exceeds expectations
  • Meets expectations
  • Needs improvement
  • Unsatisfactory

How well do you feel that you are able to use your skills and abilities in your current role at [Company]?

  • Really well
  • Well
  • Somewhat well
  • Not well

How content are you with the support and resources provided by [Company] to help you perform your job effectively?

  • Very satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Neutral
  • Dissatisfied
  • Very dissatisfied

How well do you feel that you receive constructive feedback and guidance from your manager and colleagues at [Company]?

  • Very well
  • Well
  • Somewhat well
  • Not well

Besides the feedback from these survey questions, the performance of individual employees can also be measured by the quality of their work, their speed and efficiency and by how much they can be trusted to deliver it on time. In addition to the mix of methods you’ve chosen to measure their performance, the ability to feedback to your employee's about how well they’re performing, whether good or bad, can also impact how well those staff work moving forward. So, you need to be able to deliver this in a way that’s both positive and sensitive.

For more details on staff performance metrics you can use, and ways in which you can feedback to staff about how they’re progressing, you might like to read our blog entitled: Employee Performance: Exploring Ways To Measure, Evaluate And Improve It.

Feedback on employee strengths

Similarly, to the performance of your staff, the individual strengths that each employee brings can also make a significant difference to the overall success of your business. So, it’s important to identify both where an individual excels and any weaker areas where they could improve.

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through a 360-feedback survey. This technique allows you to gather feedback anonymously from an individual’s co-workers, which can often reveal details about that individual that you would be unlikely to get using any other employee review method.

However, while identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each employee from their survey data is relatively straightforward, trying to feedback those insights to your staff can be more challenging – especially if that feedback’s negative.

Consequently, it’s important to be able to do this in a way that’s helpful and not hurtful.

We’ve outlined some examples of how you might approach this in some key skill set areas, using a fictitious employee named Tony.

Communication skills

“Tony, we believe one of your strongest areas is communication. A good example is the presentations you create, which seem to grab your audience through your use of metaphors and storytelling. People seem really engaged and interested in what you have to say.

However, one of the things you might consider focusing on is spending a bit more time listening to others and asking questions. In particular, it might be helpful to get a better understanding of what another person is experiencing or saying, before you share your own perspective. Asking a good question is sometimes more valuable than providing a good answer.”


“Tony, we’ve also noticed that one of your strengths as a leader is that your team seem to really enjoy working for you. Your staff meetings in particular seem to be energic and enjoyable, which is not always the case when other people run these meetings. As a result, employees that enjoy spending time together, tend to be more engaged and motivated.

However, we do feel that you might like to add a bit more structure to your projects. It might help you to use some tools like Trello or Slack, to ensure everybody is on board. It might also help to hold people more closely accountable to deadlines and individual responsibilities, because when communication and accountability is lacking, people’s performance can drop off.”

Interpersonal/teamwork skills

“You’re also good at consistently delivering results Tony and know how to get the job done right. Whenever we have a mission critical task that needs to be completed, we tend to think of you because we know you’re more likely to meet our expectations and get the job done on time.

However, while you’re good at delivering results, you sometimes steam roll others in the process. You can be so focused on a task or deadline that you can come across as insensitive and demanding towards others. While you can get the job done in the short term, this may cause some problems in the long term, as some people may not want to work with you again.”


“Tony, companies can only survive long term if they can adapt and figure out new ways of achieving results, which is one of the things we appreciate about you. You never rest on your laurels and are always thinking of new ways to achieve superior results and improve yourself as an individual and us as a company.

While your ability to adapt and change is great, sometimes other people need a bit more stability and predictability in their jobs, because if they feel like their work is never good enough, they can easily become discouraged. Therefore, we feel you could do more to encourage others and show them how much you appreciate them, while at the same time challenging them to work harder and go further.”

Problem solving/creativity

“We really appreciate your diligence to solving problems once you discover them. And you’re great at jumping in and taking care of issues as they arise.

However, one thing we’d like you to work on is to figure out why certain problems seem to be happening time and time again. We feel you may need to dig a little deeper and come up with some solutions to help address these problems before they even begin.”

For more information about how to get this employee data through a survey, you might like to visit our 360 Feedback Surveys page.

Feedback on employee behavior

It’s not too hard to appreciate that employees with a positive attitude are more likely to benefit your business than staff with a more negative attitude. In fact, it’s a sentiment that a lot of employers agree with, given that an impressive 87% of employers say they value a positive work attitude over qualifications.

The reason why work attitude is so important, is that one person’s attitude can easily rub off on others in a team affecting their frame of mind and the quality of their work. So, you’ll want to ensure as many of your employees as possible have a positive attitude.

However, if you’re to figure out the sorts of attitudes that mostly prevail among your workforce, you’ll need the right tools to help you reveal that. And one of the best ways to achieve this is through the use of an employee attitude survey.

Once you have that data, you’ll then have to decide how best to feedback its findings to your staff, including those with positive or less positive attitudes.

How to give employee feedback: staff with positive attitudes

While most employers will recognize the urgency of helping employees with a bad attitude to try and improve it, those with an already positive attitude are not often given the same level of priority and attention. But it’s essential not to forget them, if they’re to maintain this positive mindset moving forward.

Sharing positive feedback with employees that maintain a healthy attitude, makes them feel seen and appreciated. It’s also far more likely to encourage them to maintain this positive attitude in the future, no matter what other challenges may come their way.

While a simple pat on the back in recognition of a job well done, can often suffice, it’s more helpful to an individual to be able to provide them with the context that inspired your praise. An effective way to do this is to adopt the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) Framework, which offers a template for providing employee feedback, which provides greater clarity regarding the significance of an employee’s behavior.

Returning to our fictitious employee named Tony, here’s an example of SBI feedback being relayed back to him to praise him for his behavior.

Situation: A client called to express frustration about the delay in their order.

Behavior: You remained calm and assisted them with grace and understanding.

Impact: By the end of the conversation, your client was smiling and happy to wait a few extra days for their order.

How to give employee feedback: staff with challenging attitudes

While praising an employee for their great attitude can make you feel really good, sharing negative feedback with a member of staff, can be a lot harder and make you feel like a villain. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as you can potentially turn the situation around with constructive feedback.

Identify your employee’s negative attitude

However, the first thing you need to do before anything else is identify the type of negative attitude your staff member is demonstrating.

A bad attitude can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Symptoms can include one or a combination of the following:

  • Refusing to undertake a task because they believe it’s not their job to do so
  • Blaming others for any mistakes or shortcomings
  • Failure to take the initiative
  • Not being full present during meeting and activities
  • Showing disrespect towards managers or colleagues

Having identified any of these behaviors, you’ll be better equipped to offer feedback that helps the employee in question develop and maintain traits that better serve your team and company.

Avoid attacking personality

When you have to highlight areas where someone needs to improve their workplace performance, it can put some employees on the defensive and make them feel like they’re being attacked. So, you have to be careful to avoid making the feedback personal, and instead, focus on the negative behavior.

For example, instead of saying:

“You’re always five minutes late for meetings, which disrespects your colleagues’ time.

Think about saying:

“We noticed that you’ve been struggling to get to our Monday meetings on time. Is this because of other responsibilities or something else on your schedule that conflicts with that time?

Specific feedback is more helpful

Try to avoid generalizations and focus on concrete events, as feedback is more helpful when it’s specific.

For example, rather than saying:

“Your outbursts during meetings violate our company policies”.

It’s more helpful to provide context, such as the following:

“We appreciate how passionate you are about the Oxford comma, but when you called out a colleague for not putting it in his PowerPoint presentation last week, those words were harsh”.

Be direct

Similarly, it’s better to be direct when delivering feedback, as wavering can dilute the quality of your message.

Typically, many managers try to soften the blow by sandwiching their criticism between two statements that sound like praise.

For example:

“You produce great work (praise), but when you consistently deliver your projects beyond the deadline without communicating the delay (criticism), it damages our company reputation even though the projects themselves are really good (praise)."

The problem with this feedback is that the criticism gets lost in an attempt to balance it against what the person does well. Consequently, the employee could easily dismiss the crucial feedback about work performance and never improve their delivery time.

For more information about the topic of employee attitudes and the types of survey questions you can ask to identify what attitudes largely prevail among your workforce, you might like to take a look at our Employee Attitude Survey Template.

Feedback on employee engagement

The final area that can make a significant difference to the performance of your business is the level of engagement among your workforce. In fact, statistics reveal that companies with highly engaged staff are on average 21% more profitable than their less engaged counterparts. Not only this, but engaged staff are more likely to stay with your business, meaning that not only are they more productive, but you’ll save on recruitment costs too.

Given the many benefits to be gained from a highly engaged workforce, you’ll want to ensure as many of your staff as possible are fully engaged when they come to work. And one of the best ways to find this out, is to ask them directly through an employee engagement survey.

From how engaged they are in their work and how connected they are to your company’s mission and values, to how well supported and appreciated they feel to perform to the best of their abilities. The questions you ask in your survey, will be crucial to identifying what levels of engagement largely prevail among your own workforce. So, it can be useful to have a ready-made resource to refer to, such as our Employee Engagement Survey Template, which can help you with this.

Having gathered and analyzed your data, you’ll then have to decide how best to feedback your survey’s findings to your staff.

Sharing your survey results with employees

Whatever feedback you’ve received, whether it’s good or bad, one of the most important things you can do to ensure the long-term success of your engagement surveys is to share the results with your employees.

Transparency is crucial here. This means not just sharing results that cast your organization in a favorable light, but also any comments that reflect opportunities for improvement. Be as forthcoming as possible about what the survey results show, outlining any next steps your organization will be take based on this feedback, and selecting the best channels to disseminate this to staff.

However, what’s most interesting in all of this is how the actual act of providing feedback itself improves staff engagement.

Employees who regularly receive personal attention and feedback about their performance, satisfaction and any concerns are more likely to be engaged and committed to their organization and work. And it doesn’t matter whether that feedback is praise or constructive criticism. The most important thing is that their employer appreciates them enough to ensure that they succeed.

To achieve this within your own organization, you’ll want to create a plan that enables you to provide and receive feedback. This should include regularly scheduling deep dives on important topics including employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as more specific, time-sensitive subjects like onboarding and new technology, which you can support with a range of employee surveys.

Keeping an open two-way feedback communications channel like this, allows you to develop a better understanding of how your business decisions, operations, practices and overall culture are impacting your employees. You can then use these findings to make the changes you need to maximize engagement levels within your workforce.

Regular feedback is key to a successful, growing business

When it comes to your business, your staff are your most important asset. So, it’s important that they’re happy, engaged and productive, if you’re to maximize your success.

Fortunately, if you’ve already implemented a program of activity for collecting, analyzing and acting on staff feedback, you’ll be halfway there already.

However, if you’re to experience the biggest gains, you need to be consistent with your activity. There’s no point just running a one-off survey, then never repeating it again, as staff sentiment changes and you need to be regularly running surveys to keep track of and responding to this.  If you can do this, your business is more likely to grow and succeed.

Delivering great employee experiences is also essential

While it’s important to give your staff plenty of feedback opportunities and to be attentive to their needs, the experiences you deliver are also important in influencing how your employees feel about your organization. So, they need to be positive. Get on track with this, with the right survey tools.

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