3 ultimate rules for giving employee feedback

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Knowing how to communicate feedback to your employees effectively is one of the most apparent signs of good leadership. Feedback can help your employees develop professionally and allow your team to succeed and achieve their collective goals. 

To help you navigate the feedback process, we'll discuss how giving feedback works, how and when to give feedback and guide you with tips and practical examples for different situations. 

What is employee feedback, and why is it important?

Employee feedback is any information employees exchange (formally or informally) regarding their skills, performance or how they work with others. Managers and peers may provide feedback, and the process can create a stronger, more harmonious workplace when done thoughtfully.

Both positive and negative feedback can be constructive because they help break bad habits, reinforce positive behaviours, and enable teams to work more effectively. When giving feedback, your tone and language play an essential role in how your feedback is received. In principle, messages must be unambiguous to avoid any misunderstanding.  

3 top tips for giving feedback 


Prepare the critical points of your feedback beforehand, especially for a formal setting, so you can discuss all the topics on your agenda. The manager and the employee should come in prepared for a well-structured discussion. You'll also want to allow some additional time at the end to invite any questions from the employee. Both parties should walk away feeling they have benefited from the conversation.

Honest feedback

Honesty is the best policy, but you'll need to be considerate and thoughtful in communicating your message. We don't advise sugar-coating anything, but you should aim to be empathetic to your employee, especially when handling a delicate subject matter. Challenging your employees is encouraged, as it should be for employees to challenge management. What's vital is that any challenging is done in a healthy, non-aggressive manner and approached with honesty and mutual respect. An open culture like this helps to foster growth and better conflict resolution where everyone feels heard and all opinions are taken on board. 

Prompt and actionable feedback

If you wish to see improved employee behaviours, give your feedback promptly and regularly so that the impact is more significant. When you notice behaviours that employees could improve, share your advice whilst it's fresh in the memory. Providing your employees with a different perspective may be a real eye-opener for them and help them to understand how they could have handled a situation differently. Feedback should be helpful, constructive and not harmful to the other person. It would help if you expressed actionable and implementable points for future action so the employee knows what to do differently moving forwards.

How to give good feedback

So what constitutes good feedback? Who benefits from constructive feedback? When is the right time to say what has been on the tip of your tongue for a while? Feedback aims to bring about positive change — not to badmouth, punish or criticise someone without justification. Therefore, feedback should always be specific, factual, respectful and constructive.

Feedback involves helpful information or inputs about past actions or behaviours of one person (receiver) by another (sender). The sender communicates to the receiver (or group), who can use this information to adjust and improve current and future actions or behaviours. When appropriately used, feedback can be enormously valuable. In the workplace, feedback is essential for advancement. Giving feedback reflects on the other person, how their behaviour comes across, how they assess the situation or performance, or what potential for improvement there is. Feedback is only sometimes welcome or implemented correctly and therefore needs clear rules or methods for giving and receiving feedback.

How to gracefully receive negative feedback 

Sometimes you may be on the receiving end of some negative feedback that you disagree with or feel was uncalled for. Do not take it personally, and try not to take it to heart. Remember, a feedback discussion is an evaluation of professional performance and a reflection of you or your personal characteristics. When negative feedback is given, it is important not to hold on to the negative but to focus on the positive changes you can make in the future. This approach can be used in many situations — from refining already good processes to eliminating serious problems and mistakes.

Feedback methods

Here are a few examples and feedback methods to help you improve the culture in your workplace.

Giving feedback on your feedback 

Feedback discussions should be a two-way street and should not be limited to just the employee receiving feedback. To help improve discussions, give feedback to those giving you advice regarding changes and implementation of their recommendations. This can show that their input is taken seriously. Giving effective feedback to the other side is more challenging than it seems, as each person's perception is different. Human resource management specialists use specific feedback methods to ensure the feedback is beneficial over time. In the following part, we will explain how you can use additional feedback methods to motivate your team and improve their performance.

Sandwiching feedback

Start with a positive comment, then describe the problem and then finish with a positive comment. The idea is to layer critiques with compliments so that the criticism doesn't impact the employee quite so hard. The intention is a positive one. However, this can sometimes create confusion for the receiver, undermining your feedback and decreasing levels of trust. Instead, focus on delivering feedback tactfully and not beating around the bush.


Whilst feedback focuses on past events, feedforward focuses on the future. For example, instead of feeding back: "You talked too fast during your presentation", the feedforward statement could be: "Next time you present, try pausing each slide. It will help your delivery to be more effective and easier for your audience to take on board."

The idea is that an individual can't change their past behaviour but can modify their behaviour in the future, which can be empowering. By focusing on the same issues but in a more positive manner, people are less likely to take it personally. 


DESC is an acronym for describe, express, specify, and consequences. It is a simple and powerful technique to communicate to an employee what you would like them to do (more, less, or differently) to enhance their performance and maximise their effectiveness.

  • Describe their perceived behaviour, focusing on a single recent behaviour.
  • Express how this impacts you
  • Specify what you'd like them to do differently
  • Share the Consequences of their behaviour change


When delivering feedback, tell the individual what they did and why it was effective or ineffective (depending on whether you're giving positive or constructive feedback).

For example, "I feel that you didn't explain the second point as well as you could have, and I could see the client didn't fully understand." In this instance, it's essential to follow up with how they could improve for the future; in this instance, "Next time, you could try asking for confirmation on whether they're happy with everything you've discussed so far?"

This approach enables you to offer a direct style of feedback that focuses on the action itself, so there's less room for people to become defensive or take feedback personally.


There are a variety of ways to communicate feedback constructively. Clear communication, constructive feedback and meaningful goal setting will increase employees' understanding of critical comments. In this way, you help to create an environment in which employees know how to convert feedback correctly and thus achieve success together. 

However, one should give feedback on things other than mistakes or problems. Above all, regular positive feedback contributes to well-being at work. Social recognition tools come in handy here. The platform encore is the solution for companies to communicate corporate values and enable employees to reach their potential with the help of transparently communicated appreciation.

Ready to encore your people? – Try encorePeople now with up to 5 users for free.

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