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How to Deliver Feedback Effectively.

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Providing negative feedback is not easy. It is one of the toughest conversations to have. In this article, we will discuss about some of the concepts which one can use to deliver negative feedback effectively. Additionally, we will also share concepts which HR function can use to increase the effectiveness of negative feedback in organisational setup.

This model focuses on the nature of conversation:

1) Stick to the Issues

2) Deliver it Appropriately

3) Focus on End Goal

4) Conversations should be delivered using Empathetic Techniques.

This model is used by many organisations to train line supervisors on providing negative feedback.

Issue Specific : Focus on issues and not on the person

  • Address the issue

  • Highlight specific instances

  • Encourage receiver to share his/her perspective on the issue

  • Feedback should state specific actions the person took or specific pieces of their work

  • Describe observable behaviour

  • Keep feedback RELEVANT

Delivery Method : Message feedback as constructive opportunity

  • Constructive - Feedback should be framed as an opportunity to improve performance rather than as a “weakness”. This will enable the receiver to accept the feedback rather than blocking the feedback mentally

  • Focus on performance outcomes and not on personality

  • Assess readiness to check if receiver is in a state of mind to accept feedback

  • Single vs. Sandwich approach; prefer ‘single’ unless context requires ‘sandwich’ approach. Lot of discussion has gone on which one is better. Single approach works best when the receiver is matured or an experienced employee. Sandwich works best with highly emotional people or junior members. On many instances the negative feedback is lost with positive feedback and hence the feedback becomes useless.

Goal orientated: Focus on how to achieve end goal


  • What behaviors need to change

  • How to achieve and assess improvement

  • How/what you as supervisor will provide support in achieving end goal

Do not to try to solve the problems, 'FACILITATE' in the problem-solving process

  • Help in identifying issue or problem or root causes

  • Help generate solutions and consider consequences

  • Find value in all ideas & help in building on existing ideas

Leverage Empathy: Focus is to make the receiver understand and accept the feedback
  • Encourage and invite to talk

  • Paraphrase the receiver's comments

  • Verbal and non-verbal acknowledgement and acceptance

  • Understand that 'Empathic Listening' happens at three levels - Content (What is being said), Feelings (How is the person saying it), and Value (Why is this important to the speaker)

The process doesn't ends here. The mechanism will fail if employees do not take the feedback in a positive way. Action needs to taken on the feedback given. The HR function needs to create ownership in the minds of employees to encourage them to take action on the negative feedback given to them. Employees need to be equipped on receiving negative feedback

HR needs to create a mind shift in the employees to make them accept the negative feedback and take action items to work on it. This can be done by explaining them:
  • Objective of providing feedback is to let them know if they are on track towards achieving goal

  • Some people are uncomfortable in giving feedback, their manager is also one of them.

  • Focus is on achieving goal.


HR function needs to coach employees in deriving meaning out of negative feedback given to them. Tips employees can demonstrate:

  • Being attentive - Many times employees are not attentive due to uncomfortable nature of the conversation. In between words are lost and feedback becomes jumbled up statements

  • Not interrupting - Employees should never interrupt during conversation as this will stop the flow of thought of supervisor who might miss some finer points. Supervisor is also going though uncomfortable phase and any interruption will add to his uncomfortable

  • Avoid giving excuses for the feedback - This is the worst thing any employee can do. Excuses will put supervisors on defensive and he/she will have a tendency to stop giving feedback because he/she will perceive that the employee has taken offence of the feedback.

  • Being explicit - Employees needs to ask explicitly on the feedback. There shouldn't be any confusion on the feedback. Once the conversation is over, then employees can ask for clarifications on the feedback, share his/her own opinions on the feedback.

And finally, rule of reciprocity applies to everyone including managers. The managers should be proactive in seeking negative feedback from his subordinates / team members. Employees also need to understand that their managers also have shortcomings and hence their responsibility is to provide feedback to their respective managers. This culture will create open communication channel for negative feedback.

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