Checklist for Giving Feedback

Feedback is an opportunity to improve the relationship between two or more people. 

But many times, employees hear the word ‘feedback’ and have a visceral, defensive, fight-or-flight reaction.

Like most everything in life, though, feedback is all about how we frame it. 


Here are 6 suggestions to keep in mind when giving feedback so your employees start to see the inherent beauty of it: an opportunity to bond and to grow.

1) Define what counts as feedback and what does not. Once you have defined feedback, it is easier to offer it. 

Life experience and other aspects of identity are going to affect feedback. It is important to define feedback for each person as an individual.

Is saying “great job!” enough for one person but not the next?

Do some folks need more positive reinforcement than others? 

Is shame interpreted differently from one group to the next?

Will feedback be received differently due to gaps in gender, age, ethnicity and so forth? 

Tracking feedback in a formal way can be helpful with this, even if the feedback offered is given informally. 

In the same vein, be specific about the behavior you observed. Avoid generalizations or clear judgements. Instead, focus on the facts.

2) Consider timing.

Asking for consent before launching into a monologue will help the feedback-receiver feel they have control—decreasing the chances of a defensive reaction.

Offer your feedback as close to the phenomenon as possible.

It is important not to wait until six months down the road and unleash 10 years of truth bombs, sure—but also be sure to give yourself time to prepare thoughtfully, rather than rush. I usually take a lap or ten deep breaths if nothing else. When you are able to prepare well what you are able to say and be in a good head space.

Similarly, wait until you have asked permission from the other person.  They will respect you and the feedback far more if they consented to receiving it. 

Finally, clear your schedule/mind/space of other distractions. Feedback is serious. You need not     be checking your phone in the middle or running to the bathroom. 

3) Choose the right location.

Location should be neutral and comfortable for receiver, even more so than the giver.

This said, it should also be private for performance reviews or any more formal feedback especially. Think: no glass walls so that processing can happen in whatever way is most comfortable.

Glass walls and open-concept offices are great for collaboration—but not so great for providing private spaces for giving and receiving feedback.

4) Choose the right audience.

Depending on the type of feedback, there should be thought devoted to who is in the room when feedback is offered.

If there was a conflict in front of the group, it is often very valuable to offer feedback in front of a group in a supportive way—even if this is very difficult. This must be done with some care so that the person(s) does not/do not feel attacked. 

If there is a “blow up” of sorts and it is resolved privately it can leave lingering unhealthy effects and confusion in the organization.

Sometimes, the only way to give feedback or resolve a problem is to assemble ALL parties involved. Other times, one-on-one is best.

Still, in some cases, feedback or resolution to conflict is best resolved privately. In this case, it is always important to come back to the larger group to close the loop by sharing some of what has happened—so they are aware of how the group will move forward together. 

This means pre-departure, be sure to decide together how you will report back to the group how things have been resolved or, at minimum, made as right as possible. 

Be very clear what will be shared, who will share which parts and what language will be used. This will avoid another potential conflict or resentment!  

5) Be direct and own your own feelings. 

Owning one’s own feelings, values or needs and how you are being affected is helpful because it frames the feedback in a way that can be best heard by the receiver. This also feels more constructive and less blaming. 

Talking about the feedback in relation to yourself gives receiver a way to process it easier. 

Keep in mind that feedback always says as much about you as giver, than it does about the receiver of the feedback. Keep this in mind, give it some thought as you prepare and remain humble. 

6) Know your own relationship with feedback. 

Pay attention to how your own past understanding of and experiences with feedback have shaped your current understanding. 

If you only received feedback when you did something “wrong,” then you may want to learn more about how to offer kudos. You can ask for formal or informal coaching from those with experience in this, or who you notice do this particularly well, set goals with your team about naming what others have done well and even set creative competitions with this. 

Do not reserve feedback solely for times of correction, but also for recognition. 


Following this advice will be good for everyone involved in the feedback process, making it more collaborative, less personal and more effective.


‘Feedback as Opportunity’: Tips on Accepting Feedback Without Wanting to Throw Up


Still confused? Or want to talk this through a bit more? I’d love to; this stuff is my specialty. 

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