Table of Contents

A vital question managers and leaders need to ask themselves—do your employees know what they’re doing right, and wrong, on an ongoing basis?

Ongoing employee feedback is critical to keep employees on track and engaged. It gives them a deeper understanding of their role, a critical part of employee engagement. But feedback needs to be given in an effective way to work.

Otherwise, it’s like setting your employees off on a road trip with an outdated map and no signposts along the way - it’s not an efficient way to get them where you want them to go.

So what does giving excellent feedback look like? You might be wondering what to say, how to say it, and when to offer it.

Let’s look at some effective employee feedback examples and break down why they really work to create your own constructive conversation.

How to give feedback to employees?

Before you develop the plan for how your specific feedback conversation will go, it’s helpful to look at a basic framework for delivering effective feedback.

By framing your conversation effectively, you will know that your feedback is more likely to impact your employees positively.

In fact, only 10% of employees who had feedback conversations with their manager left them feeling negative are engaged at work. But offering negative feedback doesn’t need to lead to negative feelings when it’s done right.

A very effective framework for feedback conversations is the SBI model: Situation-Behavior-Impact. It works well for both positive and negative feedback.

➡️ Situation: describe the situation where the behavior occurred. Was it in the latest staff meeting, a quick encounter in the cafeteria, or a recent large project? Be specific in this step - note a time and a place when this occurred, especially if you’re giving negative feedback.

➡️ Behavior: note a specific action that occurred. Don’t make this step about a personality trait, but instead an objective observation of behavior.

➡️ Impact: describe how this behavior in this situation affected another person, a group of people, or the company. This step is about clarifying why the behavior is truly a problem - or how it positively impacts.

Now that you know the overall framework of how to give feedback to employees, let’s look at some real employee feedback examples!

Positive and negative employee feedback examples

A list of some great positive employee feedback examples could be the missing piece you're looking for to amp up your current employee performance review process truly.

If you're finding it hard to frame your feedback in the best possible way, here are a few positive feedback examples from our end:

Positive employee feedback examples 😊

“Great job on the XYZ project completion.” > Situation

“Your excellent project management skills and organization system kept everything moving smoothly.” > Behavior

“That helped us hit all our deadlines so that the company could launch our new product right on schedule in time for an important sales period.” > Impact

Let’s be real - giving positive feedback is always more fun than negative feedback. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the SBI framework.

The sample conversation above helps the employee know why their skills and hard work contributed to an important company effort.

Instead of just saying, “great job, thanks!” you’ll get more results in the future if you tell employees exactly what they did well so they can replicate it and why it mattered so they know why their work was appreciated and important.

Let us now look at some negative employee feedback examples so that it doesn't hurt anybody's feelings.

Negative employee feedback examples ☹

“Can I be candid about the team meeting yesterday?” > Situation

“I noticed you spoke up a lot - sometimes you spoke over your teammates when they weren’t finished talking.” > Behavior

“That made it hard to hear new ideas, which was the purpose of the meeting. I know you have plenty of ideas you’re excited to share, and your teammates do too.” > Impact

Giving effective negative feedback is a difficult skill to master. It’s uncomfortable for almost everyone, and most managers need plenty of practice before they get really skilled at delivering it effectively.

But that’s all the more reason to start getting comfortable with it now.

How to give negative feedback?

It’s natural to feel a little uneasy at the thought of delivering feedback about something that’s not pleasant - you want your employees to feel happy and supported at work.

But in the long run, not letting employees know when something needs to be stopped or adjusted in their behavior is kinder than letting them continue down the wrong path.

Think of it as the GPS automatically and non-judgmentally correcting you on your road trip when you’ve turned at the wrong spot.

Here are a few employee feedback points and tips for having more effective negative feedback conversations:

➡️Stick to I-statements. Instead of telling an employee, “You made me upset,” try leading with, “I felt upset when this behavior happened.” It’s a way of making employees feel less defensive, which helps them listen instead of jumping n to defend themselves.

➡️Clarify your objectives. What are you looking to accomplish in this conversation? Knowing what you want to do going into the conversation will help you be more direct and clear.

➡️Lead with empathy. You want your employee to know that you understand this is a difficult conversation - it’s hard to hear when you haven’t performed or behaved at your best. Noting that going in and reminding them you’re doing this because you care about their career and them as a person makes your candor feel kinder.

➡️Avoid the “feedback sandwich.” This is where you give negative feedback in between two positive compliments. While that seems nice, it’s actually confusing. After all, now the employee thinks they’re doing things pretty well - two compliments together! And people tend to retain the last piece better, so the message for improvement gets lost. Honesty and directness are better ways to go.

Frame your own feedback examples

Now that you’ve seen a few ways to deliver feedback, think of an upcoming conversation you need to have with an employee.

Scripting out the beginning and end of the conversation can help you feel apprehensive about offering feedback or being a new manager.

A guide like this from SHRM is beneficial for negative feedback conversations.

Here is a sample conversation flow for your next feedback conversation - how to begin, end, and affect change.

  • Start by acknowledging the purpose of the conversation so employees know what to expect.
  • Move into the SBI framework, which you can map out ahead of time.
  • Now it’s time to listen to what your employee has to say - do they have questions or concerns about what you’ve just said?
  • Finally, thank them for listening and acknowledge this may have been difficult or uncomfortable to hear, and tell them you’re here to support them.

Clarity and directness are truly the kindest way to approach tricky topics when they’re tempered with empathy.

Otherwise, employees might feel unsettled and unsure of what’s wrong (or right!) even if they know some feedback is coming.

It’s a feeling we’ve all had - we’re not sure our last turn on the road trip was correct, but we can’t see any signs or landmarks to tell us if we’re on the right road or help us figure out how to get back on the road the right way.

We feel lost and unsettled, and we want a clear, compassionate direction to find our way again.

When to give feedback?

When you think about feedback conversations with employees, you might make the common mistake of thinking their yearly performance review is enough.

But while performance reviews are certainly a critical time to have constructive conversations with employees, this shouldn’t be the only time they hear feedback. And ideally, their performance review shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

Why? Because if an employee goes through a whole year thinking they’re doing a good job, and then you drop a bunch of negative feedback on them all at once, they will feel ashamed and overwhelmed.

And it means you have had an employee in place for a year performing below your standards, to the detriment of the business and their teammates, without making a real attempt to make changes. If they don’t know they’re doing poorly, how can they adjust to improve?

Ideally, feedback should be frequent and ongoing. This applies to both positive and negative feedback, by the way.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, enabling these conversations regularly builds trust and rapport between employees and managers. 

How can you make regular feedback easy? Simple - by scheduling regular check-ins with your direct reports.

This has many other benefits, like increasing your connection with them and learning about any problems or sticking points as they arise.

But it also gives you an easy venue to offer positive reinforcement or correct problems as they come up before they solidify into negative habits.

It’s like looking at a map on your road trip - if you only glance at it every hour, you can get further and further away from your destination without knowing it.

But checking every few minutes to confirm you’re still going the right way, even if you miss a turn or two, means you can stay headed in the right direction and get where you want to go.‍

How an employee feedback platform will make things easy

Investing in an employee feedback platform like Empuls will formalize the feedback process in your organization and ensure that the entire process is more organized and effective - while building a culture of feedback.

With a technology platform in place, you can create a real-time environment with constant open communication between the employer and the employees.

The more comfortable employees feel about sharing feedback, the overall organizational development will be better.

Key takeaways

Delivering feedback that is frequent, empathetic, and effective isn’t easy. But with practice and a few simple guidelines, you can learn to do it in a way that gets results and keeps employees engaged and on the right road.

Your feedback is offering employees a guide and course correction as they navigate their career path - so be sure to do it the right way, and you’ll both succeed.

Access the Free Guide to Running Effective Workplace Surveys.
Learn how

Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen O'Donnell LinkedIn

Kathleen is a freelance writer and employee communications and culture expert, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications.