Giving Informal Feedback

As a manager, ongoing informal feedback can help you recognize a staff person’s accomplishments or improve performance in real time. Keep these things in mind when providing informal feedback:

♦ Feedback can be positive or constructive

  • Give positive feedback to recognize and reinforce actions or behaviors you value and want to continue.
  • Provide constructive feedback to identify actions or behaviors that weren’t effective and offer alternatives or suggestions for improvement for the next time the situation arises.
  • Offering guidance on improvement is critical; without it, the person will be uncertain as to how to avoid the same or similar issues in the future.

♦ Feedback is specific, and explains the what and why

Positive Feedback:

  • Let the person know what s/he did and why it was positive or important.
  • Understanding what action was taken, what the effect was, and why it was important enables the person to continue the behavior in the future.

Constructive Feedback:

  • Let the person know what s/he did that wasn’t effective.
  • Be specific and use neutral terms.
  • Offer an alternative or suggestions for improvement.
  • Explain why it’s important to do it differently in the future.

♦ Feedback is timely

  • Provide both positive and constructive feedback in a timely manner – at the time the behavior is observed or relatively soon afterward. This ensures the feedback is meaningful and actionable.
  • If stress from a situation is high, avoid giving feedback right away. However, address it relatively soon after so that you both can recall the details.
  • Waiting until a stressful situation has passed helps ensure the person is open to feedback and is willing to take action.

♦ Feedback is ongoing

  • Provide ongoing feedback to employees, not just during performance review time.

♦ Feedback is a tool to manage better.

  • Seek feedback from your staff or others related to performance expectations, timelines, and quality of work. For example, ask:
  • Do you have the resources you need to do your job effectively?
  • Are there any obstacles to meeting established timelines?
  • Did our work product meet the client’s expectations?

♦ Examples of Feedback

Jess, the student was upset when he came into the office today, and I saw how you handled it. Your ability to ask questions and make certain you understood the situation helped calm him down. That’s a very effective skill to have when people are frustrated or upset.

Chris, you were able to develop and complete the new the report. This helped the staff get the information they need, and I could see they appreciated your effort. It also helps build their confidence in you and helps them do their jobs better.

Leslie, when the student who just visited was upset, I noticed that you cut her off mid-sentence. I could see that his frustration was rising. The next time this happens, try to give the person space to finish his thought. This helps the person feel understood and will make it more likely that you’ll earn his cooperation.

Mel, I noticed that you missed the deadline for the weekly report, and you mentioned to me that you’d forgotten about it. One way to prevent this from happening in the future is to set a weekly task in Outlook so you will remember to complete the report. This tool is actually a good way to stay on top of the many tasks you have to do.

For guidance on providing more formal feedback during the performance appraisal process, visit the Performance and Staff Development Program