Organizational Wellness

Three Kinds of Employee Feedback That Improve Performance

Oct 3, 2023
Last Updated Jan 11, 2024

Remember that feeling when you saw the words "good work!" on a school assignment? What an ego boost! In the workforce, managers and human resources can strive to bring that same feeling to their employees.

Whether through an annual performance review or a weekly meeting, giving regular employee feedback is integral to a successful business. It helps employees work effectively and efficiently while providing the necessary motivation to reach their goals and improve performance.

There are three main types of employee feedback that employers should consider when looking for ways to improve performance: positive feedback, constructive feedback, and critical feedback. Here's how each type of feedback can contribute to your organization.


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The Value of Effective Employee Feedback

Employee feedback is a powerful tool formotivating and engaging your workforce. Positive feedback can make them feel valued, and constructive criticism provides them with direction to reach their full potential. Moreover, since employees actually want honest feedback, you can increase employee satisfaction through consistent performance reviews. 

But not all employee feedback unlocks engagement and productivity. It's vital that the feedback conversations are timely, meaningful, and constructive. 

Positive Feedback

Positive feedback recognizes an employee for the good work they’ve done.  Whether you praise them for their positive attitude or their hard work, it can improve morale and help increase productivity. After all, everybody wants to feel like their work is appreciated and contributing to the broader organization!

It's helpful to give positive feedback frequently. Managers can and should provide positive feedback during formal employee assessments — like annual performance reviews —  but they don’t have to wait for these predetermined times to arrive. Research shows that regular positive reinforcement supports continual success. They can compliment a team member on the quality of their most recent client deliverable in a private Slack message, or give kudos to a worker who achieved a major sales milestone in a monthly company wide meeting.

This type of continuous feedback is part of enabling a growth mindset in which your employees believe that they can always improve upon their skills and knowledge. Offering praise at weekly team lunch can go a long way to boost confidence through the year, not just near bonus time.

Positive Employee Feedback Examples

Many occasions call for celebrating employees and their hard work. Here are a few examples of positive feedback managers can provide:

  • "I appreciate your hard work in completing the project ahead of schedule. You have demonstrated that you can take on challenging tasks and handle them successfully."
  • "I appreciate how you handled that difficult customer. Your professionalism was noticed by everyone in the office. Thank you for representing our company in such a positive way."
  • "Thank you for taking the initiative and completing the project independently. You showed a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills when tackling this task."

Constructive Feedback

When you have to provide negative feedback, it's best to deliver it as constructive criticism. This means telling the employee not only what they  need to work on, but laying out how they can improve their performance. This helps employees understand how to move from where they are to where they can be.

When giving constructive feedback, it is vital to be clear, specific, and honest. Effective constructive feedback encourages employees to take ownership of their work and guides them on how to improve in the future. Instead of making a valued employee feel incapable, it shows them ways they can be even more capable than they already are.

As with any performance improvement advice, it's helpful to follow up at a later date to determine if improvements have been made or if additional guidance is needed.

Constructive Employee Feedback Examples

When delivered properly, constructive feedback helps employees develop professionally. One way to do so is using the Oreo method, where your feedback is ‘sandwiched’ between two honest positive statements. 

Here are some examples of how to give constructive feedback using this method:

  • “You had some wonderful information in your presentation, but I’m afraid the client didn’t get to see all the value you provided because the sales projection charts you showed were too complex. I think if you made your charts simpler, it would be easier for people to understand the implications of your work. The market research you’re conducting is really insightful and I know that with the right delivery it could drive our strategy going forward. ”
  • "Thank you so much for volunteering to take on this project! I appreciate that you’re always a team player. I have noticed in recent meetings, though, that you seem to be stressed by competing deadlines. Do you need help evaluating your calendar to prioritize production timelines? I don’t want you to face unnecessary complications in meeting this deliverable deadline, because I know you’re really well-suited to the project.”

Critical Feedback

Critical feedback is given to address problematic behaviors in the workplace. The feedback might pertain to safety concerns, misconduct, or performance-related issues. It is essential to be direct and honest with critical feedback so that the employee can understand what needs to be changed.

When giving critical feedback, it's best to provide a sense of urgency so the employee knows the behavior must change immediately. In general, it’s advisable to focus on the specific behaviors at hand rather than critiquing them as an individual. This can help the feedback feel less like a judgment on them as a person and more like you’re removing an obstacle (of their own creation) from their path.

Managers can also use this as an opportunity to ask about what might be causing the behavior. Especially if an issue arises with a formerly good employee, they may be facing a problem in or out of the office the company can help address to resolve the issue.

Critical Employee Feedback Examples

Ideally, you can provide critical feedback in a private setting so as not to embarrass staff in front of their coworkers. It’s beneficial to remind the employee that this feedback is not personal but rather necessary to ensure that employees perform to their fullest potential. Offering support to address the issue also shows you want to resolve the problem, not simply critique the employee. Examples of critical feedback include:

  • "You’ve been late to your shift twice this week. This places extra stress on the other servers during the dinner rush, which isn’t sustainable for the team. Is everything okay? This wasn’t an issue before.”
  • "I’ve noticed you’ve been curt with clients during a few phone calls lately. As the external face of the company, it’s important we remain positive and helpful at all times. Your sales manager is there to help with any clients if an issue arises, but please make sure to keep your language and tone appropriate for a workplace setting."
  • "I noticed that you have not been following the safety protocols that were put into place. This puts both you and your coworkers at risk of injury or harm. We need you to follow all safety guidelines to maintain a safe work environment for everyone. Is there anything about this project, like the timeline, that you feel is pushing you to skip these safety steps? If so, please let me know so we can talk through how to resolve them.”

Creating a Feedback Culture

Creating a feedback culture is essential for any successful organization. And this is not a one-way street: It’s just as important to gather feedback from employees as it is to give it. If you haven't already, consider providing your employees a platform to voice their concerns and suggestions or send out employee pulse surveys.

Listening to your employees is a great way to assess their needs and how well the company is meeting them. A recent survey of workers around the world, for example, found that theirwellbeing is one of their top workplace priorities

A wellness program is a data-backed path to cultivating a culture of wellness at your organization. If you’re interested in learning how to capitalize on this top priority of top talent, speak with a Wellhub wellbeing specialist today!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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