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3 Common Feedback Mistakes


If developing and motivating employees are priorities for your organization, building and sustaining a culture of feedback is essential. Performance reviews, regular check-ins, and ongoing feedback are a crucial part of employee recognition and growth. In fact, 82% of employees appreciate positive and negative feedback. All employees should be comfortable with giving and receiving feedback to and from their peers. However, it is important to note that feedback is a double-edged sword – not all feedback is effective.

In this article, we outline 3 common feedback mistakes and how to avoid them.

1) Overly nice feedback

Often managers can be nervous to give constructive feedback to employees in fear of being discouraging or too critical. To avoid being ‘mean’, managers may give overly nice feedback (i.e., no constructive feedback) to their direct report. This often makes the direct report feel like their performance is acceptable with little to improve on. When a manager is unable to provide adequate feedback, this can lead to unmotivated and disengaged employees. Moreover, if a manager is apprehensive on discussing poor performance, they may find themselves completing or redoing tasks which was originally assigned to their direct report. This is wasteful for both the manager and the employee. You can check out our previous article on the dangers of being too nice of a manager for more details.

When it comes to feedback, managers should be prepared to give specific points on the actions of the employee (what has been done well or hasn’t been done well) and suggest areas of improvement. It is helpful to use action verbs to communicate feedback improvement (you can find a list of feedback verbs in our previous article). Do not sugarcoat the feedback – if a task was poorly done, be direct. Most employees already know when they are underperforming – you may be surprised how often the employee will agree with your feedback. Remember that when feedback can be communicated calmly, constructively, and directly, performance can then be improved.

2) Only focusing on the negative

If managers only focus and comment on the negative aspects of performance, employees can become disengaged. If employees are left feeling undervalued and underappreciated, productivity from the employee can drop due to the amount of criticism they have received causing resentment. Not only can productivity decrease, but the quality of an employee’s work can diminish. For example, if an employee is only hearing about their incompetencies with their work, they might have little to no motivation to impress their managers. Remember that even a simple “thank you” can go a long way when having feedback conversations with employees.

Managers need to be able to express both positive and negative aspects of their employees’ performance and be able to communicate it clearly. Moreover, managers need to be able to make a clear distinction between a problem with the employees’ actual performance and the employees themselves. Said another way, a manager should be giving behavior-based feedback (i.e., employees’ actions), not trait-based feedback. Focusing on action-based feedback can help drive employee motivation, productivity, and engagement.

For more information on how to give feedback, check out these feedback examples!

3) One-sided feedback

Feedback can be extremely helpful to employees, but managers should ensure that their feedback conversations are a two-way conversation. Managers should encourage their employees to voice their own opinion on what they think they do well or where they are struggling. This helps them feel appreciated. Currently, 39% of employees report that they don’t feel appreciated at work. Managers can help mitigate this by ensuring that their appraisals and feedback check-ins are a two-way conversation.

To create a two-way open conversation, managers should first get the employee’s thoughts about their own performance – the good, the bad, and possible areas of improvement. This should be done before the manager gives their own thoughts. Asking open-ended questions is the key to starting this two-way dialogue.

At the end of the meeting, managers should ask their employees for feedback – whether that be on their leadership style, communication, or progress on company objectives. This can also facilitate the direct report to participate in the conversation. Some examples of questions to ask in your direct report include:

  • Do you think I give you enough feedback? Do you want more feedback?
  • What could I do (as a manager) to make your work easier/ more effective/ more productive?
  • How can I better support you? Is there anything I could be doing better or differently?

For more examples of questions to ask during a performance review, you can download our guidebook of 100+ questions.

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