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10 Things Not To Do When Giving Feedback

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Letting someone know they’ve done a good job as a leader is easy. Giving corrective feedback, on the other hand, is much harder. In fact, many managers second-guess themselves when doing so as they're worried they’ll say the wrong thing and leave their employees embarrassed or demotivated.

It is no surprise then that an HBR article uncovered that 44% of managers found providing criticism stressful or difficult, and 21% avoided it. Yet, in a global employee engagement study by Officevibe it was discovered that 83% of employees appreciate feedback, independent of whether it is positive or negative.

Your intentions may be right, coming from a place of trying to coach and develop your employee. Still, if you’re giving feedback incorrectly, it will fall flat or, worse, cause harm to your relationship, productivity, and engagement. To avoid this, follow our ten suggestions of what not to do the next time you give feedback.


Do you struggle to provide constructive feedback as a leader? If so, this  guide should help!


What Not To Do When Giving Feedback

  1. Deliver feedback when you’re upset
  2. Dodge the issue with vague feedback
  3. Give feedback and walk away
  4. Declare sweeping generalizations
  5. Deliver negative feedback where others can hear
  6. Exaggerate the situation
  7. Provide feedback infrequently
  8. Deploy the sandwich technique
  9. Use humor
  10. Avoid it

Deliver feedback when you’re upset

When an employee makes a big mistake at work that has real consequences, it’s best to take a breath, assess the situation, work on a repair strategy, then deliver feedback. Do not deliver feedback when you’re furious, as you may regret what you say later. It is typically a best practice to provide feedback at the moment; however, when you’re hot, it’s better to wait until you’ve cooled down.


Dodge the issue with vague feedback

In an attempt to soften the negative feedback while also battling your fears of rejection and upset feelings, there may be a tendency to dodge the issue by giving vague feedback. Vague and unactionable feedback is useless to everyone; you won’t be resolving the problem, and your employee has no idea what to fix. When delivering feedback, be direct, avoid irrelevant information, and be specific about the issue and its impact.


Give feedback and walk away

With one survey uncovering that 69% of people leaders agree that they’re uncomfortable having conversations with employees, it is not shocking that many managers want to get away from the situation the instant they’re done giving feedback. However, if you want the feedback to resonate and result in a change of behavior you must allow your employee the opportunity to ask questions.


Declare sweeping generalizations

Sweeping generalizations should never be used when delivering feedback. These are statements such as “you always” or “you never.” When giving feedback, provide sufficient and appropriate evidence to support your claims to avoid making sweeping generalizations.


Deliver negative feedback where others can hear

A quick way to lose the trust and harm your relationship with your employee is to deliver negative feedback in front of their peers or other leaders. Doing so will only leave them embarrassed and hurt. It is essential to provide feedback in real-time, so either take them to a private location or wait until everyone is gone.


Exaggerate the situation

You may be tempted to overinflate the consequences when delivering feedback to get your point across. However, exaggerating the problem and doing this frequently will erode the impact of your feedback over time. For example, suppose every piece of feedback you deliver ends with “It is putting the company in jeopardy” or some other worst-case scenario. In that case, the one receiving will begin to shrug off any feedback you deliver, as those consequences were never realized.


Provide feedback infrequently

If you save up all of your positive and negative feedback for your annual review, you’re doing a disservice to your employee. For feedback to have an impact, it needs to be timely. In addition, employees are craving feedback from you, as one survey found 96% of respondents agreed that receiving frequent feedback is a good thing.


Deploy the sandwich technique

If you subscribe to the sandwich technique, where negative feedback is sandwiched between positive feedback, it is time to let that go. Sarah Green Carmichael, the former editor of the Harvard Business Review, explains why in her HBR article, “Never, ever, ever feed someone a “sandwich.” Don't bookend your critique with compliments. It sounds insincere and risks diluting your message.”


Use humor

You may think using humor to provide some levity to an uncomfortable situation will ease the tension and make it less awkward. This is a mistake. Giving feedback is a discussion on someone's performance and job, which they likely take very seriously. Give them the respect they deserve and leave humor out of your delivery.


Avoid it

Wouldn’t you want to know what you could change before it became a more significant problem? Yet, many people leaders, as noted earlier, avoid giving feedback. Little to no feedback is stifling employee development. A study uncovered that 28% of employees agreed the frequency of feedback from their direct leader is not enough to improve their performance.



You can overcome avoiding feedback by attending a program that builds your knowledge, skills, and confidence in leadership communications. Giving feedback becomes much easier when you are equipped and prepared to do it effectively.

A Managers' Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback