When we speak about an employee feedback definition, we aren’t referring to the performance review model we all remember. Instead, we mean the information you give to your employees about their accomplishments and actions at work. Ideally, the feedback is used to direct their future actions toward improvement.

Usually, when we think about getting feedback at work, we flashback to the last performance review we had. That once-a-year review process isn’t a confidence builder. It typically instills a feeling of dread for what’s coming. That performance review model doesn’t inspire team growth and development either.

Feedback is a continuous process rather than an annual meeting with management to discuss performance. The feedback we give or receive doesn’t need to be intimidating. Knowing the definition of feedback isn’t enough; we should also recognize the different kinds of feedback and how to effectively give and receive feedback. Learning to give feedback routinely, even in a spontaneous moment, is the way to move from the performance review model to exhibiting the definition of feedback.

Feedback Definition

Types of Feedback Defined

Our typical mindset is to view feedback as either a positive or a negative experience. Instead of thinking in those terms with the connotations associated with them, there is a different way to think about feedback. We should begin thinking of feedback in terms of reinforcement and redirection.

Reinforcing Feedback Definition

Reinforcing feedback is a verbal acknowledgment of someone’s positive actions and the effects of those actions. When you see positive behavior that you want to continue, you give reinforcing feedback. For example, when we see someone taking initiative and letting them know we appreciate it.

Examples of Reinforcing Feedback

Reinforcing feedback doesn’t have to wait for a one-on-one performance review situation. By definition, this feedback is a verbal acknowledgment of positive actions, so we can feel confident giving that feedback at the moment. The more often we provide reinforcing feedback, the more our team will excel. Here are some examples of ways to offer positive reinforcing feedback:

  1. Something I really appreciate about you is_____________.

With this example, you can say, “Something I really appreciate about you is your willingness to help new hires learn the ropes.”

  1. I think you did a great job when you _________________; it showed that you had_____________.

Here, you can say, “I think you did a great job when you presented the new marketing strategy. It showed that you understand our company goals and how to communicate them effectively. I admire your confidence in public speaking.”

  1. I would love to see you do more of ______________as it relates to ______________.

You can approach this suggestion in multiple ways. One of them is something similar to, “I would love to see you handle more PowerPoint presentations in our weekly meetings. The creative direction you take is fresh and thought-provoking. I would love to see more of your ideas.”

  1. I really think you have a superpower around_________________.

Sometimes it can be challenging to acknowledge someone’s strengths, but people need to hear what their special talent is. This can sound something like this, “I think your superpower is calming customers who are feeling stressed. You always have a composed, patient manner.”

  1. One of the things I admire about you is_____________________.

People enjoy feeling valued. Sharing the things you admire about someone can be an effective confidence booster. This approach can sound like this, “One thing I really admire about you is your ease of communicating with various people. “

  1. I can see you’re having a positive impact in _________________.

Here is an example of how to use this technique. “I’ve noticed you’re having a positive impact in training sessions with our new hires. Would you like a larger role on that team?”

Redirecting Feedback Definition

Negative feedback only tells someone what they need to stop doing. In a redirecting feedback model, we let them know what to stop doing as well as what they should start doing. For example, taking the initiative with team projects.

When we give feedback, many suggest structuring that feedback in a positive, negative, positive fashion. We don’t have to use that format for feedback to be effective. However, it’s wise to give more reinforcing feedback than redirecting feedback.

Examples of Redirecting Feedback

Redirecting feedback can be given at any time, just like reinforcing feedback. However, asking someone before giving redirecting feedback is a good idea. Before you begin to give feedback, you should attempt to get a sense of the state of mind the person is in. You need to ensure the person is in the correct frame of mind to receive whatever you need to say.

Once you know the person is ready to hear what you say, you can use one of the following examples to get the conversation started toward redirecting them.

  • Is now a good time for me to give you some feedback?

This opening statement lets the person know that you have some feedback, but you are considerate of their feelings.

  • Do you have a moment to discuss how __________went?

This is a good conversation starter when someone has just completed a project or a presentation. The way the person responds can help you know how they are feeling and what they are thinking. After starting the conversation, you can tell them the areas you noticed that need improvement.

  • Can we debrief on ____________?

While this can be good to start any feedback conversation, it’s typically most useful in an environment that uses a lot of projects. When you use this one, ensure you give the person receiving the feedback a chance to share their thoughts.

  • Can we talk about ________? What do you think is going well or what didn’t go well?

This technique is good to use with someone who reports directly to you. It allows you to have a conversation that exchanges feedback with them so they aren’t left feeling blindsided by feedback.

  • This is hard for me to say…

Use this phrase when a situation is extreme, challenging, or intense. This might be a good way to let someone know that you have significant feedback to give. When you use this technique, the other person knows you are likely nervous about the conversation, indicating you want productivity rather than the blame game.

A special case is third-party feedback. Giving someone third-party feedback can be tricky because you generally want to avoid using hearsay when you give feedback. However, you should be ready to discuss this kind of feedback because you can get it from time to time. The best way to start that conversation is, “Can I share some feedback we’ve been hearing?”

Five Tips for Giving Effective Feedback Defined

When you give feedback, you want to ensure it will be effective. Language is only one tool for giving effective feedback. Keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled five tips for providing effective feedback.

  • Pay attention to timing. Think about the other person’s mindset. Ensure that they are ready to receive the feedback and that you are in the right frame of mind to give the feedback. Avoid times of strong emotions regardless of the kind of feedback you need to share.
  • Be prepared. Consider your purpose for your feedback and what the desired outcome for what you want to say is. Think about the recipient of the feedback. Make sure your feedback gives enough information so the person can continue or stop what they’ve been doing.
  • Give specific examples. Regardless of the kind of feedback you’re giving, you need to be specific. Detailed examples help set the foundation for measuring growth and guide how they should behave in the future. Saying someone did a good job is simply a compliment. Being specific lets them know what they’ve done correctly and well.
  • Give actionable feedback that is future-focused when possible. Feedback should be about behaviors that can actually be changed. Things like “you’re lazy” is a personal criticism, and using that kind of feedback can lead to defensiveness. However, giving someone feedback with goals and ways to reach those goals can be empowering.
  • Make giving feedback a regular occurrence. You don’t have to give feedback for every situation. However, regular reinforcing feedback helps to lessen the need for redirecting feedback. It builds personal connections to provide feedback regularly.

Defining Five Steps for Learning from Feedback

Remember, feedback isn’t just for employees. If we want people to accept our feedback, we need to accept and learn from theirs. Here are five tips for learning from feedback.

  1. Simply listen.
  2. Stay open and receptive.
  3. Ask questions to follow up.
  4. Take action on the feedback.
  5. Say thank you and show that you mean it.

Final Thoughts

By definition, feedback is a more immediate way to give employees information regarding what they do well or need to improve. Using feedback routinely helps with growth and team development in a more constructive way than annual performance reviews.

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