What Is Workplace Feedback? (How to Effectively Give Workplace Feedback)


There will always be someone who knows more than the other or has more experience in a particular area to help others in what is called workplace feedback. Delivering feedback is an easy way to help others learn but if recent research is anything to go by, there is not enough feedback as more than 65 percent of employees claim that they want more feedback than what they are currently getting. 

So. what really is workplace feedback? Workplace feedback is simply defined as a process of givingOpens in a new tab. constructive suggestions by supervisors, reporting managers as well as peers aimed at improving performance, reinforcing good behavior and improving employees’ morale and dedication to doing their jobs. The mistake that most managers make is not to provide enough feedback because they are afraid of losing the employee and making it all about the negative attributes of the worker and forgetting to provide praise where it is due. (Read more on what is workplace feedbackOpens in a new tab.)

Constructive feedback is a very important tool in the workplace. It is necessary for an employee to succeed and thrive in what they do without which they will be living in uncertainty.  The purpose of workplace feedback is to guide and motivate people to reach their goals. Contrary to popular belief, feedback can be given and received by anyone in the hierarchy; from one employee to another, manager to employee and even employees to managers. Giving feedback is not all about pointing out the negatives and it is not as easy as it may seem. If it is not done in the wrong way, it can lead to people feeling demotivated and some people take feedback as a personal attack on their character and loyalty.

While negative feedback may not be received well it is necessary for improving performance where the person receiving feedback has fallen short while at the same time you want to balance it by mentioning what they are doing well. There are techniques to giving feedback and it is something that should be planned out. Avoid giving feedback to employees for instance as a group because it’s harder to face an individual. Each employee has their strengths and weakness that are different from that of their colleague.

Five Sources of Workplace Feedback

If you want your employees to perform better and not feel threated, constructive feedback is a must. However, as a manager, you need to first understand the various sources of feedback in the workplace.

1. Customers

Just like the old adage goes; the customer is king. As such, customers are very important sources of feedback and can tell you a lot about the kind of employees you have. This is why today, more and more companies continue to solicit feedback from their customers after services rendered on either an individual, a team or the performance of management. It can be done through surveys, having a working complaint system, customer visits or focus groups.

2. Objective Data

This is by using data that already exists like KPIs and statistical measures to provide objective feedback to your employees. While this kind of feedback is objective and you may want to base your feedback on facts, but it can be misleading at times. Take, for instance, customer service representatives whose major goal is to improve customer satisfaction. With such employees, service level may not be the best way to measure their performance. (We have a related article – 52 employee engagement KPI’sOpens in a new tab.)

3. Leaders

Managers, supervisors and team leaders are a great source of feedback at work since employees report to them. They are more experienced and have a better knowledge of what their subordinates do day in day out. They also have a better understanding of the company policies, procedures as well as trajectory and as such understand the performance of the employee better. Since leaders are an important part of the feedback process, they should be trained from time to time on how to give feedback.

4. Peers

At the end of the day, employees interact more with each other than with their managers or supervisors. Most of the time they have a better understanding of each other’s performance than even the line managers and as such can be relied on for a different perspective in the feedback process.

5. Subordinates

Feedback is not only a downward process, but employees can provide feedback to their managers, supervisors and even upper management. By allowing employees to provide constructive feedback to those above them, you will make them feel like part of the team in that their opinion matters, and they are more likely to be loyal.

Importance of Workplace Feedback

There are so many benefits of providing constructive feedback to employees so long as you communicate effectively.

Increases Motivation

When an employee receives positive feedback, they know that their efforts don’t go unnoticed and are more likely to improve performance and it ends up increasing their loyalty to the company.

Improves Performance

Employee performance will only improve once they know that their efforts are appreciated and when you give them feedback that helps them improve how they do their work.  (We have written a related article – 100 ways to be productive at workOpens in a new tab.)

Continuous Learning

It is easy to fall into a routine especially if your job involves you doing the same thing every day. Frequent constructive feedback provides a way for such an employee to learn something new in their job every now and then. This way, they have different ways of approaching their work rather than fall into a routine that ends up getting boring in the end.

Improves Relationships

If employees realize that you take note of what they do, they are more likely to come to you for a solution when they encounter a problem. In addition, if you always tell them when they are doing their job well, they will do everything in their power not to betray that faith.

Good for Personal Growth

Constructive feedback points out at the strengths and weakness of the employee allowing them to be more self-aware and look for opportunities to keep on growing in their careers.

How to Effectively Give Workplace Feedback

Feedback is important,but knowing how to deliver it; good or bad will make all the difference. If done wrong, the employee may take it as an attack and may start looking for work elsewhere where they believe their efforts will be appreciated. As such feedback needs to be clear, purposeful and concise so that it can work.

Start by Telling the Positives

If the employee’s performance has dipped and you need to give negative feedback, it is recommended that you start with the positive. This way they don’t think that you are attacking their character and questioning their loyalty. We are human beings and as such don’t want to be told of our shortcomings. Frame the criticism in a positive way and that way the employee will not take it as a personal attack.

Be Clear and Specific

Nobody likes to give feedback especially if it is negative. As such, you may find yourself giving generalized evaluations and asking vague questions. If you want feedback to work, you need to hit the nail on the head. Be direct and communicate your ideas clearly by adding details to your statements. 

Be Objective

You may not like everyone, but when it comes to giving feedback avoid basing your arguments on emotions and personal feelings. Instead, stick to the facts and try and justify why you are giving them that feedback.

Provide Solutions

Actionable feedback is very important especially when you are giving negative feedback. There is no point telling the employee what they are doing wrong if you are not going to tell them how to improve. The main reason why you are the one who is giving feedback is that you have more knowledge or experience in the subject matter and as such the employee needs to learn from you.

Provide Continuous Feedback

Most of the time, feedback is only given during employee evaluations. Workplace feedback should be something that is given frequently and not only at a specific time of the year. If you are not happy with how an employee is doing their work, tell them there and then rather than wait to bring up at the end of the year during the annual appraisal.

Have a Face to Face Meeting

It is easy to hide behind a computer because you don’t want to be hated or to be seen like you favor one employee over the others. When you are giving feedback, call the employee and have the discussion face to face. This way they know you have noticed them and are more likely to improve. It also shows that you care as long as you don’t just focus on what they are not doing right.

Five Quick Facts about Workplace Feedback

Here are a few facts about workplace feedback that most people especially managersOpens in a new tab. don’t understand.

1. An employee will receive feedback better if you can be trusted

When receiving feedback, the person giving it is just as important as what they are saying. For feedback to be effective therefore, the employee must perceive you as a credible source of information. They also need to believe that you have their interests at heart so that they can change their behavior.

2. Struggling employees are already aware that they have a problem

It is easy to assume that feedback is meant to educate an employee on issues that they don’t know about. Most of the time, those struggling employees already know that they have an issue and so will not be surprised if you give them negative feedback. Most of the time, the reason they haven’t changed is that they don’t know how to and as such, you need to give solutions rather than just pointing out their shortcomings.

3. Employees will take your advice if you listen more

If you are manager and want to improve on how you give feedback, start by listening. Feedback is a two-way street and employees need to know that you listen and understand what they are going through so that you can give feedback.

4. A lot of employees prefer corrective feedback to praise

Most employees are looking at growing their careers and that can only happen if they improve on what they are doing. As such, they prefer corrective feedback to recognition and praise. Even if they are your star employees, they will grow tired of being told about what a great job they are doing. That is when they realize that they need a more challenging job and will start looking elsewhere.

5. Star employees need more affirmation after a setback

In an organization, there are star employees and mediocre ones. When a setback occurs, star employees suffer the most and they need extra affirmation if you don’t want their performance to suffer as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I ask my employees for feedback? You first of all need to show them that you are interested in feedback and read non-verbal cues. Make them feel that their opinion matters and that they are just as important in the company as top management and that you are in this together and your performance and that of their effects the company in the long run. Ask them to provide feedback on what you are doing wrong and give suggestions on how you can improve.

What kind of questions should you ask during an appraisal? First of all, you need to show them that you are invested in them and that you want them to improve in their performance not only for you but their future career prospects. Ask them about their work, their strengths and weaknesses and what they feel management can do to help them continue growing in their capacity. After the appraisal, work on those suggestions and that way employee evaluations are not only seen as a formality.

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