What Good Manager Feedback Really Looks Like

Published: June 17, 2021

Kellie Easley


Whether you’re giving it or getting it, feedback can be challenging, which is why it tends to be neglected despite its critical role in effective internal communication.

Recent studies indicate 98 percent of employees fail to stay engaged when there’s little to no manager feedback, and 33 percent of employees say a “lack of open, honest communication” has the most negative impact on employee morale.

The feedback process doesn’t have to be negative, and it shouldn’t always be critical. When delivered effectively, feedback and recognition open the door to stronger and more collaborative working relationships.

So, what is “good” feedback, and how do we deliver it?

What is “good” manager feedback?

“Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.” — Jack Welch

Good feedback is specific, relevant, and forward focused. Through transparent communication, managers buildtrust and develop relationships with direct reports based on candid, two-way communication.

Manager feedback should encompass both strengths and weaknesses. Positive feedback and employee recognition can be equally as impactful as respectfully delivered critical feedback. In fact, 69 percent of employees indicate they would work harder if their efforts were recognized.

How to give good feedback

While there’s no foolproof method or universally accepted format, the following principles leaders with any management style apply.

Keep it candid.

Set the stage early in your reporting relationships for candid, two-way communication. Vague feedback (positive or negative) that isn’t actionable or relevant does not set anyone up for success. Be specific, and put it into context for the employee’s current role as well as within the larger organization.

Share critical feedback kindly but directly. Be clear about expectations and desired outcomes. Celebrate successes and highlight contributions openly and often.

We recommend adopting the Radical Candor approach to effectively deliver direct communication. By guiding and not directing, you’ll help your team members envision success and empower them to identify the steps to get there.

Focus on growth, not failure.

According to Gallop, “Like a good coach, great managers are always thinking about the next play, the next game, and the next win. They keep conversations focused on the future.”

Rather than dwelling on prior performance, focus the conversation on learning from failures and refining skill sets for the future. Provide greater context to help them put your feedback into perspective. Likewise, leverage positive feedback as an opportunity to highlight how to tap into strengths and achieve further growth.

Keep in mind that positive feedback often has a greater impact when recognized frequently and publicly, whereas constructive comments should be delivered one on one with the opportunity for dialogue.

Be timely and consistent.

Don’t wait for annual or mid-year performance reviews. Those milestones are important, but recent studies show that “more than half of office professionals want performance check-ins at least once a month.

Even more (94 percent) actually would prefer their manager address mistakes and development opportunities in real-time, which enables more agility through coaching and behavior changes to address skills gaps and shifting strategies.”

In addition to real-time feedback and recognition (on the spot “high fives” go a long way), establish a one-on-one meeting cadence with each team member to ensure that time is set aside to focus on their growth and development.

This will allow both of you to come to the meetings prepared and let your employees know you support them taking the time to reflect and advocate for their growth. 

Tips for giving your manager feedback

On the other side of the table? Feedback from employees to managers is just as important as feedback from managers to employees. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when giving your manager feedback:

  • Be specific, and provide examples–particularly if the feedback is critical. This is tough, which is why most people avoid it, but a good manager will appreciate it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, but be prepared to advocate for it. Show them you’ve thought it through.
  • If you’re not having regular one-on-one meetings, request them. This ensures performance development is top of mind and progress is tracked.
  • Share any positive comments for your boss. If they nail it, let them know. They’ll learn from it just like you do.


Strong leaders and effective managers embody a culture of candor and two-way communication to empower their teams with positive recognition. They also encourage growth through constructive feedback.

Feedback is only effective when open, honest communication is already in place. That foundation will foster the trust and mutual respect needed for effective feedback and make positive recognition even more meaningful.

Looking for a marketing agency with a positive communication and feedback style that can set your business up for success? BrandCraft, a Kennewick marketing agency, is at your service. Schedule a consult today.

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