The Anatomy of Good Feedback

The Anatomy of Good Feedback

The procrastinator. The slacker. The disappearing act. The clumsy.

They all make your head spin, your blood pressure shoot right up and your forehead crunch, don’t they?

What’s their deal?  You think. Why can’t they just do their jobs?

As much as you’d like to bombard or sound them off a little bit, DO NOT; because here’s where you could put the art of giving efficient feedback to use.

Giving great feedback which is well reciprocated is a knack which once acquired assures a whopping harmony in the workplace. However, hardly ever have I seen managers practice this art. Giving and receiving feedback is a two way process, your associates need it to improve as much as you need to share it with them for great results. It’s tough. It could be harsh. However, it’s inevitable.

So how can you help? By ensuring that all your criticisms are constructive! Let’s have a look at how we can achieve this.

Use the feedback sandwich

A popular technique of offering feedback is PIP or Positive-Improve-Positive. This breaks the feedback down into 3 segments:

  • You start off by emphasizing on a positive achievement or strength of the associate.
  • Next, you state your critique- areas of improvement, things that need improvement.
  • Lastly, you round the feedback off with (a) revising the positive achievements you mentioned at the start and (b) the positive results that can be expected should the criticism be acted upon.

The feedback sandwich is a great way to provide feedback because you start off with a positive comment (the P) and let the receiver know you are on their side.  This makes them reciprocate better to the negative feedback (the I) or the area that needs to be worked on. Lastly, you round off the criticism with more positive points (the last P). This helps your feedback end on an uplifting note, rather than leave the recipient with a sour taste.

Watch your words

Extending constructive feedback is imperative when it comes to shaping your team. The words you opt to use whilst extending your feedback plays a big role in this. Blaming and negatively singling out an associate by using “you” may negate the efficacy of your feedback; incorporate pronouns such as “we”, “us” and “all of us” instead. Holding the entire team as responsible in attaining a goal will prove to be infinitely more motivating than just saying “you are to blame”. Further, remember to positively reinforce the achievements of team members rather than single out the mistakes.

Equally important is the setting for feedback. Do not sit across from each other – this creates a confrontational mood. Instead sit on the same side of the table and look at the same screen/ notes – if any of you need them for the session.

Suggest recommendations on how to improve

Good recommendations tend to tie your critique up in a nice bow! Your recommendations should clearly chart out what is expected of the associate and give him/her a clear idea of what needs to be done. Additionally, recommendations also provide a strong call-to-action and creates a positive bias for action in the team. For this to happen, it is imperative you be specific with your recommendations and briefly explain the rationale behind it.

Let us look at an example of a weak recommendation versus a strong one.

  • Weak recommendation: The write-up is too long. Cut down on it.” –The recommendations given here are not very precise as cutting down on the write-up length may lead to cutting down on important points, information or details and so on. What exactly do you want to convey? Part of giving good recommendations include being specific.
  • Good recommendation: “Instead of stating 3-4 examples per point which distracts the reader from the main message of the write-up, limit each point to 1 example, so the message is clear and impactful” – Recommendation made with precision. Rationale behind the recommendation is also stated thereby explaining your view to the person.

Focus on the situation, not the person

It is imperative you remember not to personally attack your recipient for unachieved goals, their performance not being up to the mark or any losses incurred whatsoever. Statements that negatively talk of them should be avoided, these could be anything from “You are so stupid” to “You are of no use to this organization”. Needless to say, abusive words or remarks are an absolute no-no. Secondly, it is important you detach the person from the situation- this distinction is crucial. Take the person out of the equation and focus on the situation, action, behaviour or issue at hand.

Provide feedback on a regular basis

Providing continuous feedback is essential to enhance associate performance. Moreover, they also want to know how they are doing. By extending continuous, regular feedback rather than waiting for an annual or half-yearly meeting to share one is a great way to keep them motivated and engaged with their tasks. By extending timely feedback you inspire associates to challenge themselves, which leads to an increase in job satisfaction and renewed enthusiasm for work, thereby helping the company in attaining its goals as well. Further, this ensures that nothing comes as a surprise on the day of formal appraisal and both of you can focus on improving the performance rather than arguing on how satisfactory it was.


Whether it’s positive or negative, formal or informal, any type of feedback can clue an associate on where they stand performance-wise and the right, constructive feedback can help them significantly improve on their performance.


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