a person holding up speech bubbles to represent giving effective employee feedback

10 Real-Life Examples of Giving Effective Employee Feedback

by Nora St-Aubin, Content Writer

May 30, 2018

Reading time : Clock15m

At the center of both personal and professional development is employee feedback.

It can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance and behaviour within their team.

“Employees are more likely to learn and grow when they receive immediate feedback that is specific, targeted at their development and able to be put into practice right away.”
– Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report

In a way, we’re always giving and receiving feedback. Our nonverbal communication can send out messages we aren’t even aware of. That’s why it’s important to always be mindful of your tone and body language, and remember to select the words you use carefully.

Giving feedback, whether good or bad, can be challenging. To help you out, we put together 10 real-life examples of effective employee feedback and our best tips for making feedback more impactful.

Here’s 10 Feedback Scenarios in which Feedback is Crucial:

  1. If An Employee Didn’t Deliver A Project On Time
  2. If An Employee Didn’t Set Realistic Goals
  3. If An Employee Seems Disengaged
  4. If An Employee Doesn’t Take Initiative
  5. If An Employee Made A Mistake
  6. If An Employee Was Rude To A Coworker
  7. If An Employee Doesn’t Get Along With Anyone
  8. If An Employee Is Gossiping
  9. If An Employee Has Poor Time Management
  10. If An Employee’s Performance Has Declined

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3 Key Components of Effective Feedback

10 Real-Life Examples Of Employee Feedback Given Correctly

By addressing the 3 key components of effective feedback, you have a much better chance of having an impact on the employee. You can see these in practice in the following examples:

If An Employee Didn’t Deliver A Project On Time

While this could be disappointing, there’s not much you can do about it. There’s no point in getting mad, but you can try to find a solution to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

Here’s what you can say:

The project wasn’t delivered on time, do you have any idea why? As you know, we’re trying to get everything organized for the new website, so if you’re late on a project, it slows down the rest of the team.

For the next project, let’s make sure you have more time and resources to finish as planned. Going forward, maybe you can schedule your work in advance to make sure that you’re not overloaded towards the end.

Whatever the reasons for the project being late, you can try to address them on an individual basis. Helping your employee plan their work will help you detect future issues earlier without micromanaging.

If An Employee Didn’t Set Realistic Goals

Your employee is probably disappointed in themself for not having reached their goals, so you don’t want to discourage them further. You do want to focus on how they can set better goals in the future to give themself the best chance at success.

a target sits atop a mountain while sharks circle in water below, representing a unrealistic goal

Here’s what you can say:

Seriously, great job with your goals this quarter. You accomplished a lot, and it’s okay that you didn’t hit every single goal, but I can see that it’s taking away a bit from your sense of achievement.

I think your goals might be too aggressive. Maybe you can try setting fewer big goals and more small goals, or narrowing your goals down a bit to make them more attainable and measurable.

In this situation, the issue is more that the employee set unrealistic goals and not that they didn’t do everything they set out to do. Hopefully it’s a learning experience for future planning.

If An Employee Seems Disengaged

There are a number of reasons your employee might be disengaged, so you’ll want to figure out what the cause of their disengagement is. From there, you can work together to find ways to help boost their motivation.

Here’s what you can say:

I noticed you seem a bit distracted and less motivated than usual and it’s affecting your outlook on your work.

Are there any skills you’d like to develop or special projects you’d like to work on? Let’s set up a time to discuss your roles and responsibilities and make sure you’re content here.

Professional development and a sense of purpose are crucial to employee engagement. By showing your employee that you want to help them grow and try new things, they’ll feel truly valued which should increase their engagement in itself.

If An Employee Doesn’t Take Initiative

This could also be the result of disengagement, but it could also stem from a lack of confidence or empowerment. You want your employee to feel safe to take on new things, and not afraid of failing.

Here’s what you can say:

I notice that you haven’t been taking much initiative on new projects. I’d love to see you in a leadership position, and I think it could be a great way for you to develop in your role.

I’m here to support you in any ideas or approaches you’d like to try. Even if things don’t go according to plan, we’ll learn from it for next time.

It’s possible that your employee just needs a little nudge or some reassurance. Affirming your confidence in them will hopefully give their self-confidence a boost, too.

If An Employee Made A Mistake

Mistakes happen, and when they do, usually the person responsible already knows that they messed up. Instead of giving them a hard time, try finding what can be learned from the mistake for next time.

Here’s what you can say:

I know you feel badly about what happened, but let’s not dwell on it. What do you think could have been done to prevent that outcome?

Let’s try to find a way to learn from this moving forward and make sure you have the right support so it doesn’t happen again. We can set up a time to go over the procedure again if you think a refresher could help.

Chances are, if your employee received proper training, the mistake was an oversight. You want to give them the opportunity for more training if they need it without giving them a lecture. Fostering an environment where employees feel safe to take risks and make mistakes leads to more innovation and big ideas.

If An Employee Was Rude To A Coworker

Ideally, everyone works well together and collaborates smoothly. But tension between coworkers is a natural thing that can happen on any team, and sometimes you’ll have to do some conflict resolution. If one of your employees is rude to another, you want to address it right away and try to mediate the situation.

Here’s what you can say:

Stacey mentioned something you said earlier that bothered her. I don’t think she was comfortable bringing it up with you so I offered to talk to you about it.

I’m curious, can you fill me in on what happened? I’m assuming it was a misunderstanding, but of course I want us all to get along.

It would be great if you guys could work it out, maybe you can apologize and ask to go eat lunch together to talk about it. If you think it could help to have me there, I’d be happy to join you guys.

Depending on the severity of the situation, the best thing is to let them work it out themselves. Encouraging a climate of open communication could help your employees to address small issues before they blow up.

Of course, once certain lines have been crossed you may have to intervene or seek out the help of the HR department.

If An Employee Doesn’t Get Along With Anyone

This is a bit more troubling, and it’s situation where it’s really important to focus on the behavior rather than the person. You want to address why the employee is rubbing the other team members the wrong way, not make them feel alienated.

Here’s what you can say:

I just wanted to let you know that a few people on the team have talked to me recently about you raising your voice when you’re frustrated.

I wanted to chat with you directly about it to see if there was anything we can do. It might be because you’re stressed, but I think when you raise your voice it rubs people the wrong way.

I wonder if you would consider working on how you express your emotions at work. Is that something you’d be open to? I’d be happy to help you figure out the next steps.

This can be tough to handle because if the employee feels like they’re being ganged up on, they might become resentful or hostile towards the team. At the same time, it could just be a lack of self-awareness, and simply drawing their attention to it could really help them to improve their behaviour.

If An Employee Is Gossiping

Unfortunately, gossip doesn’t stop in the school yard. It’s important for managers to take control when people are gossiping because it can really impact morale. If you’re aware of an employee that is gossiping, it’s important to talk to them privately.

speech bubbles, some red representing gossip

Here’s what you can say:

I was a bit surprised to find out that you’ve been talking about this issue with other employees.

I understand where it’s coming from and I’m sorry you have these feelings towards this issue, but I want you to know that you can always come and talk to me about these concerns. When you talk about it with other employees it creates a negative energy in the office.

I want to keep all my employees happy and feeling safe, and I know you want the same, so let’s get on the same page and try to talk this out. Afterwards if you still feel that it’s a team issue, I can arrange a time for us to address it as a group.

You want to make your employee understand that discussing the issue with their coworkers is inappropriate, but you don’t want to discourage them from voicing concerns. By suggesting the two of you talk about it and offering to address it with the team, you re-establish appropriate boundaries for dealing with the situation.

If An Employee Has Poor Time Management

Time management can be tough for anyone, and requires a lot of readjusting and optimization. When you talk to your employee about this, acknowledge that it can be tricky in a fast-paced environment, but encourage them to find strategies that work for them.

Here’s what you can say:

I’ve noticed that you struggled to manage your time for the last 3 tasks.

It impacted the rest of the team because they were waiting for some parts of the project from you. We can figure it out, but let’s make sure you’re set up to optimize your time going forward.

Instead of just planning for the coming weeks, maybe you can make a point of planning your time day-to-day as well. I’ll set up 15 minute meetings in the morning so we can all share what we’re working on and what we got done the day before.

These kinds of daily check-ins can be such a time saver, especially when you’re all working on the same project. As peoples’ work shifts, you can adjust accordingly as a team.

If An Employee’s Performance Has Declined

There are many reasons that could be behind poor employee performance, and it’s better not to make assumptions. The main goal is to figure out what the underlying cause is so you can help the employee to improve.

Here’s what you can say:

I’ve noticed some changes in your work habits and results over the past week or so. I know how productive and results-driven you usually are, so I wanted to check in with you and see if there was anything you were having trouble with that I might be able to help you on.

Or, if there’s anything you want to talk about, I’m always here to listen. I know we can solve this together and I have faith that you can get your performance back up.

Empathizing with your employee and showing them that you believe in them will help them to feel supported, and hopefully from there you can help them get back on track.

5 Tips For Giving More Effective Feedback

In any circumstance, you want to try to remember the 3 key components of effective feedback. To take your employee feedback to the next level, consider the following tips:

Focus On The Behavior, Not The Person

This is probably the most important tip when it comes to negative feedback. You want to focus on the behaviour and problem-solving rather than scolding the person.

For example, instead of saying something like: You keep not showing up to meetings and you’re missing important information.

You could try: I noticed you weren’t at the last two team meetings. I’m worried that you missed some important information. Can we meet to go over what you missed?

When you meet with the employee to debrief, you can remind them how important it is for them to be at meetings going forward so they can get the information first-hand.

Remember That Feedback Is Your Opinion

Sometimes, leaders will say something like “they feel” or “we think” to give the impression that the feedback is coming from everyone, not just them.

People might do this to try to make the message more powerful or to make it seem less personal. Doing this could actually have the opposite effect though, because the employee could assume it’s the opinion of people who don’t know them and their work as well.

As their direct manager, employees want your opinion. Use “I” when you’re giving feedback, it will have a much greater impact.

Don’t Do The Feedback Sandwich

People often promote sandwiching negative feedback in the middle of positive feedback to soften the blow.

A sandwich with speech bubbles between toppings to represent the feedback sandwich

Don’t do this.

In a research paper called Tell Me What I Did Wrong that looked at how different personality types responded to feedback, they found that the feedback sandwich doesn’t work most of the time.

The problem is that the negative feedback ends up getting buried and people only hear the positive part.

Turns out it’s better to just be straightforward. Employees will appreciate your honesty.

Don’t Be Too One-Sided

When feedback is mostly negative, studies have shown that it discourages future effort. Recognition is just as important as feedback, so acknowledge employees’ good work alongside your constructive criticisms.

On the flip side, if you only ever give your employees praise it might not be helping them to grow. Don’t downplay their success, but try to find ways that they could take things to the next level.

Strive for balance, but never force it. And again, there should only be sandwiches involved if you’re having a lunchtime one-on-one.

Do Follow Up

This one might seem obvious, but remember to follow up on the feedback you give. You want to help your employees track their progress and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Making feedback more frequent will help with this, because you can start by checking in on whatever you established the last time you spoke. If it’s going well, you can work on ways to take it to the next level. If it hasn’t gone as well as expected, you can discuss why and how best to move forward.

Giving effective employee feedback as a manager can be difficult, especially when you’re dealing with a situation you’ve never faced before. Just remember the 3 key components and you’re bound to get your message across.

Any Tips For Giving Employee Feedback?

Any tips to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

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This article was originally published by Ali Robins on November 17, 2017.

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