Why is giving feedback to your employees such a difficult task?

It shouldn’t be, if you know how to prepare!

A well functioning team always achieves more than individuals on their own.  Part of being a good manager is being able to manage this team.  Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it can be a challenge.  One thing that I have found is that, no matter what the situation, people find it difficult to give their employees feedback – whether it be good or bad.

Feedback is key to a successful working relationship.  People need to know what you want and they need to know what to change.

Feedback is something you should aim to give regularly, whether it is a well-planned scheduled session or just purely 2 minutes at the end of a meeting.  When it comes to giving feedback, the one point I always start with is “be open and honest” in the feedback you are giving.  This sounds simple but you would be surprised how difficult people find it. 

Being honest requires some preparation.  While this is not the same as preparing for a formal counselling session, before the discussion you need to spend time figuring out what is the key message you want the person to take away and how are you going to deliver it.

Get yourself clear on:

  • What the person does well
  • What do you want them to do more off
  • What key talents are needed for organisation success
  • Where are they less efficient
  • Where are they letting you down or underperforming
  • What does the organisation need from them
  • What does the team need from them
  • What is their role in the team

Of course this is not a complete list.  Figure out the messages you want to give.  Work each answer down to a clear, simple sentence.  Be prepared to give a specific example if asked to explain.

You need to deliver these messages very succinctly.  Focus on the tasks more then the personality.  Remember the aim is to give them clear ideas about what you want them to do differently or more of.

If you are planning to have a formal feedback session then you should also use the time to ask the questions and get some answers.  Ask them what feedback they give themselves?


Anthony - all valid points, worth read. And the main theme - the simpler the better - very much appeals. Actually, it should appeal to both side of the discussion: those providing and those receiving the feedback. In addition, from my practice, the feedback provider absolutely must allow the receiver to talk and react to the feedback. Otherwise, the session is likely to lead to frustrations and failure, more than anything else. Something the deliverers too often fail to do (perhaps anxiety is at fault). Content wise, in my cases the following three areas worked well: - What she should continue doing - What she should stop doing - What she should start doing Worthy reminders in the post overall, thanks for those. Cheers, Dalius

A useful tip on feedback which I came across in the book by Alan Fine and which I used successfully on several occasions - to start the feedback session by first hearing out how the other person views his / her performance. Because if there is a huge gap between his / her view of the situation and yours, then he / she will not be able to "hear" and internalize any feedback you give (it will be dismissed as irrelevant or not objective). There were quite a few occasions where after such a start I had to adjust my initial feedback plan and spend some time bridging the gap.

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