For many of us, giving feedback is a normal part of our personal lives – we’re happy to let our family members know what we think of their behavior, or submit online reviews for products and restaurants. At work, however, giving feedback might not come as naturally to everyone. Too often, managers lack the knowledge and skills to deliver effective feedback, and unintentionally do harm to their employees or miss the opportunity to truly maximize performance.

Some people are more comfortable giving feedback about the things they want people to continue to do more of (reinforcing feedback) than they are about suggesting things they think someone should do less, or stop (corrective feedback), but everyone can get better with practice. By utilizing insights from neuroscience, cross-cultural knowledge and inclusive best practices, managers and colleagues can take action to deliver feedback more effectively, avoid pitfalls and drive the business and individual growth outcomes they seek.

Don’t underestimate the importance of preparing for the feedback conversation in advance. Put yourself in the shoes of the person about to receive feedback. Consider whether they are in the best mindset to receive your feedback, and if you are in an open mindset to give feedback. If emotions are high, wait for a more neutral time. Also, reflect on the purpose of your feedback and the desired outcome – is there value in the person changing or repeating their behavior?

As you consider the content of your feedback, ask yourself: how might this feedback be shaped by my own cultural background, experiences, values or style preferences. Bias comes into play anytime we are evaluating others. If someone else, with a different identity, acted in that way, would you have the same feedback?

Here are 7 tips for giving great feedback – both reinforcing and corrective – that can be used whether you’re providing feedback in person, or in writing. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at giving effective feedback.

  1. Focus on the issue. Tackle the problem, not the person.
  2. Be sincere. Whether negative or positive, effective feedback must be earnest.
  3. Avoid the sandwich method. Don’t try to sneak in a negative statement between two positive ones to soften the blow. Your constructive criticism can get lost in the shuffle.
  4. Be specific. Addressing one incident at a time and be as specific as possible. Avoid addressing multiple incidents at once which can lead to confusion.
  5. Allow a response. This is especially important for constructive criticism. Seek to understand the perspective of the other person. Good feedback operates best as a two-way street.
  6. Recommend a solution. Offer up specific examples of the next steps they can take to solve the issue when the feedback is corrective.
  7. Provide a summary. If providing negative feedback, give the individual a brief summary of the discussion in order to make sure they properly received the message.

Not every action or scenario requires feedback, but it is important to make feedback a regular process. When positive feedback is given often, it prevents occasional critical or corrective feedback from becoming an ordeal. We want to ensure the feedback we provide to coworkers is useful, and we don’t cause anyone to feel upset in the long term.

If you are interested in learning more about giving effective feedback, consider taking a Feedback Fundamentals course from Duke Learning & Organization Development. Click HERE for more information.


SHRM (2021, August 16) June Yoshinari Davis: Strategies for More Inclusive and Effective Feedback
MasterClass (2021, June 7) Chriss Voss: 7 Tips for Giving Valuable Feedback in the Workplace
Culture Amp (2023) Lexi Croswell: How to Give Effective Feedback