Creating Normalcy Around Employee Feedback

September 28, 2021

two people collaborating two people collaborating

By Suzy Hampson, Employee Communications Manager with contributing research by Isabella Sturgis, Associate

Regular employee reviews are part of everyone’s career paths, and they happen all the time… So, why does feedback make us so anxious?

Answer? Feedback is challenging to give and receive – it’s often infrequent, vague and can even get personal for the untrained. Feedback also affects how your team perceives you, what is recorded on your performance review and the raises and bonuses you can expect.

In the ideal world, employees should have a sense of what to expect when it comes time for reviews. There shouldn’t be major surprises to make employees feel blindsided. When feedback is done right, it can help your people improve their performance instead of causing additional stress – in fact, 57% of employees would prefer corrective feedback over praise. The below recommendations are designed to facilitate a feedback-rich culture that supports both employee and company-wide growth.

Best practices on giving feedback:

Set ground rules.

  • Find agreed-upon guidelines for the team to follow when giving and receiving feedback, such as assuming positive intent and focusing on solutions.
  • Why? ​This provides focus on the outcomes to accomplish and gives employees an idea of what to expect from feedback sessions.

Be timely.

  • Provide feedback at a time when it is most relevant, such as the day or week a specific scenario occurred, to set employees up for success with timely opportunities for improvement.
  • Why? Continuous feedback prevents overwhelming employees during formal performance reviews when specific events, positive or negative, may no longer have the benefit of recency recall.

Have a plan.

  • Identify the purpose behind the feedback you want to share and plan how you can approach it to focus on objective facts and desired outcomes rather than opinion.
  • Why? This will keep you focused and provide clarity for the recipient.

Give them a say.

  • Give the recipient an opportunity to share their side of the story, which may even bring to light gaps and opportunities you were unaware of. Work with your employee to define actionable steps for improvement. ​
  • Why? This creates an open space for discussion and empowers the employees to be in control of their next steps.

Be thoughtful with your words.

  • Discuss the behavior rather than the individual. Use “I” instead of “you” statements and focus on the behavior’s impact on the team and/or project. ​
  • Why? Saying, “You are rude to clients,” is too vague to help the discussion. Adjusting to, “I noticed that you have been short with John in the recent weeks, is there context I am missing and how can we change that?” opens the dialogue and aims for a solution.

Be forward-thinking.

  • It is likely necessary to reference the past but try to focus more on the future and any potential solutions. It’s more motivating to work towards future actions.​
  • Why? Saying, “You underperformed on that project,” may cause the recipient to shut down. Adjusting to something like, “I have recommendations for improving your project management skills that will help drive our team’s efficiency,” is a productive way because it includes an intended outcome to work towards.

Be authentic and vulnerable.

  • If applicable, relate feedback to a similar mistake you’ve made and share what you’ve learned from it.
  • Why? Opening upabout your own experiences will help build trust and increase your credibility as a mentor and coach. Managers known to value feedback for themselves are considered more competent and credible coaches.

We understand that these best practices are easier said than done, so here are a few ideas to kick-off your feedback strategy:

  • Encourage leaders to sign up for a feedback training course through your employer if available, or through sites such as LinkedIn Learning.
  • Kick-off constructive feedback conversations with the leadership team to share experiences where feedback they gave and received was effective vs. ineffective, and how they can approach feedback in the future.
  • Practice giving “just in time” feedback during weekly or monthly 1:1 meetings to provide ongoing conversations and ultimately create a sense of normalcy and comfortability.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for employee feedback, there are several approaches that can work well for your organization. Well-delivered, constructive feedback is crucial to employee development and consistency reinforces trust and honesty between colleagues. A feedback-rich culture can help managers demonstrate that they are attuned to their employees’ performance and are invested to help them grow and achieve their goals.


If you have questions or are seeking counsel related to Employee Communications and Engagement, email Gaik Ping Ooi at