Let’s play a word association game: employee feedback. What does that make you think of? Harsh criticism? Teeth-clenching headaches? The dreaded annual performance review? If that’s where your mind went, don’t worry; you’re not alone. For most of us, performance reviews and feedback at work don’t exactly inspire happy feelings.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! In the modern workplace, the culture of reviews is changing. Not only do you not have to give harsh, unyielding criticism to your employees…but it really doesn’t help them at all. Well-constructed criticism, whether positive or negative, is the cornerstone of all progress at work!
What do we mean by employee feedback?
Employee feedback is any information given to an employee in the workplace to use as a metric for future improvement. And it doesn’t just have to be in the form of a formal, annual review. In fact, you may find that giving and receiving feedback is easier when it’s done in a casual, day-to-day manner. Below, we’ll explore different ways to both give and receive feedback in the workplace, as well as helpful examples to guide you.
Reinforcing and Redirecting vs. Positive and Negative
In terms of giving feedback to help someone improve whatever it is they’re doing, you can assume that the person is either performing well — in which case you’d like them to continue in that way — or they’re performing poorly — in which case you’d like to help them fix that. So when you think about it that way, it doesn’t really make sense to say “positive” and “negative” feedback. Instead, try thinking of it like “reinforcing feedback” and “redirecting feedback.” It definitely takes the sting out of “negative” feedback and makes the whole process more approachable.
Whether you’re a manager with direct reports or not, you’re definitely going to find yourself in a position to give feedback. If you’re a manager, it’s part of your job description. But if you’re not, you still work closely with your colleagues and situations will arise wherein you need to give feedback to them. No matter what category you belong to, fear not! Giving feedback doesn’t have to be scary. But checking out some employee feedback samples will certainly help. Below, you’ll find both negative and positive feedback examples (reinforcing and redirecting.)
Positive Employee Feedback Examples (Reaffirming)
Positive, constructive feedback is an invaluable tool to help your colleagues and coworkers feel acknowledged and valued while keep them on the right track!
“You did a great job with ___.”
It doesn’t get any easier than this. Just pay attention to what the person is doing well and praise them on it! Making people feel appreciated for the work they’re doing well not only helps them stay on the right path and boosts their spirits, but should make you feel good as well.
Example: “You did a great job building that presentation for corporate. We couldn’t have done it without you!”
“I’ve noticed that you handle ___ really well."
This type of praise is more about paying attention to patterns and habits. Do you notice that the person always turns in their time sheet on time? Do they have a habit of consistently performing well under pressure? Good habits are something you want to encourage, so when you see them, call them out!
Example: “I’ve noticed that you handle last minute deadlines really well. Keep up the good work!”
“I would love to see you do more __ in as it relates to ___ .”
This is a more analytical form of reinforcing feedback. Did you notice that the person did something well and could apply that same skill somewhere else in the job? This could be important to notice and the person you’re praising might not be aware of how else to use this skill you’ve noticed! It’s important to note that you’re not saying the person is doing something wrong by not applying this skill elsewhere. You’re just praising them and helping them grow at the same time!
Example: “You drew some really great connections between ideas in that brainstorm meeting we had today. I would love to see you do more of that with our user feedback groups!”
“I realize this was difficult, but you did a great job.”
Often times, your employees and/or coworkers are up against a lot of obstacles, some of which you may not be immediately aware. When the struggle is recognized, it validates the person’s work and gives them the metaphorical “shot in the arm” to preserve through the difficulties.
Example: “I realize that this last minute work order was stressful and required some long hours, but you did a great job with sticking with it and executing the project well.”
“I heard from ___ that you were doing a great job.”
Have you heard good things from someone else that maybe you didn’t personally witness? If so, pass it on! Now, we realize this could get a little dicey because managers shouldn’t be spreading hearsay. But if you have it on good authority that the person is doing a good job, let them know! They might not hear the feedback otherwise.
Example: “I heard from Stacey that you were doing a great job on that side project the two of you are working on. It’s great to hear that you’re taking initiative and working hard!”
Negative Performance Feedback Examples (Redirecting)
Negative/redirecting feedback is where a lot of us get anxiety about feedback in general. But as long as you remember to think of it more like redirecting someone than criticizing someone or knocking them down, this type of feedback has no reason to be harsh or intimidating. When you’re giving constructive or redirecting feedback, consider these tips:
Clarify what you mean
Don’t be vague about this issue you want to discuss. Get right to the point.
Don’t let the problem drag out. If something needs addressing, do it as soon as possible.
If you have something serious to discuss with a colleague, don’t do it over email or chat where your tone could be misinterpreted. Do it face to face!
Don’t make it personal
Keep it professional. You don’t need to make it about them as a person, just about their work and its impact in the workplace.
Offer action items and follow up
Be helpful! Give suggestions on how they might improve upon the problem and definitely check in later, so the person doesn’t feel like you dropped a bomb and left.
Below, find some negative (redirecting) performance feedback examples.
“I’d like to talk about your performance on ___. Is now a good time?”
This is a great way to set up a conversation wherein your employee or coworker may not love what you have to say. Present the subject of the conversation, then make sure that you’re taking how they’re feeling into account. The subtext of this phrasing also makes it clear you have something weighty to talk about.
Example: “I’d like to talk about your performance on the government contract so far. Is now a good time to go over it?”
“How do you think ___ could have gone better?”
Make it a question! People tend to learn better when they have to fill in the blanks themselves. Have the person you’re talking to self-evaluate and they’ll feel less attacked and more introspective!
Example: “I noticed that meeting didn’t go very well. How do you think the questions you asked could have gone better?”
“Are you having an issue with __?”
Give your colleague the chance to come to you with the problem, rather than “calling them out.” If they’re having a problem, chances are they’re aware of it and may just need some help! So go ahead; be the help that they need
Example: “I noticed that you and Sarah haven’t come to an agreement about the project yet. Are you having any issues with the project that I can help with?”
“I’m concerned that you may be spreading yourself too thin.”
This specific type of feedback is if your colleague is missing deadlines or meetings or seems to be showing up late to work and events. Rather than berating them for screwing things up, try to understand the root of the problem. Maybe this person has too much on their plate. By redirecting their efforts, you can make sure they’re using their time in the best possible way.
Example: “I noticed that you’ve missed the last couple team meetings and I’m concerned that you may be spreading yourself too thin. Let’s talk about how we can reallocate your time.”
When you are receiving feedback, be gracious! As you probably know, it’s not always easy to give feedback, so try to be grateful for whatever info you’re getting. And as the flip side to the advice listed above, try not to take any criticism or feedback personally. It’s just part of the job.
When you’re given reaffirming feedback, be sure to thank your boss or coworker graciously. If it’s redirecting feedback, keep an open mind and still be thankful. Remind yourself that they are helping you out. If you follow these tips, you’ll be rocking the feedback-receiving process in no time.
While feedback in the workplace may seem like a stressful topic, it doesn’t have to be. Giving both positive/reaffirming and negative/redirecting feedback is a normal part of the process at work and, when handled correctly, helps everyone grow and improve.
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