Learning to Deliver Feedback Effectively: Good and Bad Examples

Business partners in discussion
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“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”- Ken Blanchard

The purpose of feedback is to reinforce positive behaviors that contribute to performance or eliminate negative behaviors that detract from performance. Giving feedback is one of the most important part of a manager’s job. Good employees need and want to know how they are doing. Effective managers work hard to master the art and process of conducting difficult conversations and offering meaningful praise.


We all have “blind spots,” and a manager focused on employee development can help open an employee’s eyes to those blind spots and coach them on how to improve.

In order for feedback to be effective, it should be:

  • Specific
  • Sincere
  • Timely
  • Meaningful or behavioral
  • Job-related
  • Something the person can change

Feedback Examples and Scripts:

There are many flavors of feedback. Here is a list of some of the most common types, with good and bad sample word tracks for each. They are rank ordered by type from easy to most difficult. 

Job performance feedback:

Positive example: “Bill, you exceeded your production goal by 20% last week. Great job, that’s really going to help us meet our overall plant production and financial goals. How did you do it?”

Poor example: “Bill, I just noticed you exceeded your production goal last month. This month’s goal will be increased 20%”.

Behavioral feedback:

Positive example: “Nancy, at the meeting this morning I noticed you getting defensive when your data was challenged during your presentation. When Amy asked a question about your calculations, you were short with her and told her she needs to trust that you know how to do your job”. When you responded to her that way, she shut down for the rest of the meeting and seemed angry. You really need her support, and I’m wondering if you’ll have it now.

Poor example: “Nancy, you snapped at Amy in last week’s meeting. You need to control your temper.”

Career feedback:

Positive example: “Matt, I think you have leadership potential. You’ve demonstrated an ability to lead and motivate teams, you can deal with ambiguity, and you are a quick study. Is leadership something that you are interested in exploring?”

Poor example: “Matt, congratulations, I’m promoting you!”

Reputational feedback:

Positive example: “Lisa, I’ve heard and noticed that our new employees have been coming to you for advice on how to succeed in our culture. You seem to be developing a reputation as someone that really understands how we do things around here. That’s great, thanks for helping them out, I really appreciate it. You’re a role model for our values, and I’m sure our newer employees value your advice.”

Poor example: “Lisa, you’re starting to develop a reputation as a complainer. Try to stay more positive.”

Feedback that came from others:

Positive example: “Tom, I’ve gotten feedback from others in the department regarding you being overly critical to them about their work. While I’ve not directly seen you do this myself, I’m concerned that others have noticed, and it bothered them enough to come to me. Can you shed any light on this?”

Poor example #1: “Tom, I think you’re being too critical of your team members.”

Poor example #2: “Tom, Carly, and Jeff have complained to me about your being too harsh with them. What’s going on with that? Is this true?”

Feedback about a suspected personal problem:

Positive example: “Ann, I’ve noticed in the last two weeks you’ve not been yourself. You made two significant errors on your last two proposals, you missed an important deadline, and when we met yesterday, you didn’t seem to be paying attention to me. I had to repeat myself twice. I’m concerned – this isn’t like you at all. If there’s something going on in your life, I realize that may be private and none of my business, but I’m concerned that it’s impacting your job. Is there something going on?

Note: do not try to solve the personal problem, stick with addressing the job performance. If available, make a referral to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Poor example: “Ann, are you and your husband having problems?”

The Bottom Line:

These examples and word tracks are only samples, and the way feedback is delivered, and issues are discussed will certainly depend on the context and relationship between the manager and employee. However, hopefully, these slightly exaggerated examples offer effective models to prepare for and open your feedback discussions. 


Updated by Art Petty