A continuous flow of feedback

Giving and receiving feedback seems so logic, but it’s not common practice. Most people know that giving negative (but constructive) feedback is hard, but few people know that also giving positive feedback (compliments) is not that easy.

Giving positive feedback

Questions that arise are: When will you give the feedback? Should you bundle it? How will the receiver take it? Will they trust us? Will they think we have a hidden agenda? Are my compliments considered sincere? Is a compliment needed for that success in day-to-day business?

Scientific research and literature all around learns us that by emphasizing on positive messages, we can have a better effect then when only giving negative feedback. But negative feedback is sometimes so easy. Yes, easy. We are taught to perform and seeing bad things is easier than seeing the good ones. Compare it with coming home after a busy day at work: if your partner has cleaned up all the recyclable garbage on the kitchen sink, you will probably not notice it (or maybe even take it for granted). But when your partner didn’t take out the garbage, the first thing you see is the garbage on the kitchen sink.


  • Start with giving small, even trivial, compliments, but always make sure they are sincere: that you mean what you say.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. In “the big feedback talk” the pitfall is making generalizations like “i think you are a good analyst”. These generalizations may be received as awkward. Regular feedback after accomplishments can be directly linked to the effort made and is perceived better.
  • When in a crisis, only give positive feedback for a while. If performance is improving you can start working at the learning opportunities.
  • Address your feelings if you uncomfortable giving feedback. Eg. “I’m not sure how to say this, but i think you did a great job when …”.

Giving negative feedback

Negative but constructive feedback should always be welcome. Make sure you use the feedback framework described below.

Questions that may arise are: Am i allowed to give feedback? How will the coachee react? How do i avoid discussion and defensiveness? When do i give feedback?

Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. When all feedback is saved until the yearly HR performance talk, the feedback is too late (lagging). Your colleague couldn’t act upon it to improve his performance during the remainder of the year. Saving every thing until the last day can lead to surprises, disbelief and arguments.

There are theories about the time between the behavior observed and the feedback talk: interrupt immediately, right after the facts, wait for two days, … There’s no silver bullet here: make the careful consideration yourself and adapt to the specific situation.


  • Use objective and observable behaviors as examples: these are not open for discussion.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk.
  • Make sure you have the mandate to give feedback. If in doubt, ask!
  • Pick your battles: address the most urgent learning points, but do not overload (and depress) your coachee.
  • Make sure the coachee can act upon the learning points: there’s no need to give feedback if you can do nothing with it.

The feedback framework

Giving feedback

Receiving feedback

Step 1 – Describe observed behaviors
Behaviours that can be seen. Avoid interpretation.

Step 1 – Listen actively
Let people know that you view feedback as useful .

Step 2 – Describe perceived effects
Your personal perception of the impact the behaviors have or had. It is not open for debate

Step 2 – Avoid becoming defensive
Reflect on what is being said. Acknowledge the perception of the feedback giver.

Step 3 – Pause
Allow the recipient of the feedback to reflect and ask clarifying questions if necessary.

Step 3 – Ask clarifying questions
Don’t hesitate to probe for understanding.

Step 4 – Make suggestion
Provide practical, helpful ways in which they may change their behavior, should they choose.

Step 4 – Show appreciation
Saying “thank you” shows appreciation.

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