Giving feedback isn’t easy! However, it’s something managers must do to keep employees engaged and informed. Failing to provide feedback or allowing bias to creep into the process are equally concerning and may result in disengagement, loss of productivity, and cultural rifts. Today, we’ll discuss how to give feedback, outline the common struggles and risks of giving bad feedback, and discuss how managers can learn to deliver effective, honest, fair, and impactful feedback that motivates and drives results.


Tips on How to Give Fair and Impactful Feedback

Here are a few essential tips to consider when providing feedback.


1.     Provide feedback immediately

Giving feedback is an integral part of any professional relationship. It helps keep everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal. However, it’s also vital to ensure that your feedback is constructive and helpful, and that requires an immediate response. Waiting too long after the fact or allowing several issues to stack up over time can confuse and overwhelm. Immediate feedback helps prevent misunderstandings and relieves the frustration managers might feel around addressing an uncomfortable situation.


2.     Focus on the action, not the person

Focusing on the action or behavior—rather than the person—can be a difficult distinction to make, but it’s an important one. For example, if an employee makes a mistake, it’s easy to criticize in a way that makes the person feel like they are less than.

In personalizing your response, you put the individual on the defensive and make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, try to focus on the action. For example, you could say something like, “I noticed that you didn’t proof your work before turning it in. Next time, could you please take a few extra minutes to review your work before handing it in?” This kind of feedback is specific and objective. It doesn’t make the person feel bad about themselves, but it does encourage them to change their behavior in the future.


3.     Make the exchange mutual

Addressing the need to change can be difficult. Making the conversation a mutual endeavor is a way to achieve the results you want without causing undue stress to either party. Focus on why you need to have the conversation and what the impacts of the desired change will be. State your positive intentions in providing the feedback and connect it to the employee’s positive motivations.

For example, you know that your employee wants to be viewed as a capable and helpful part of the team. Perhaps you can express your concern that the person’s performance makes it difficult for others to see them in that light.

Keep in mind also that a mutual discussion requires some listening on your part. Perhaps you should lead by asking the individual to tell you their perspective. You may gain valuable insight into why the behavior happened in the first place—which might force you to adapt your response.


4.     There’s a time and place for feedback

Feedback is a critical part of any professional relationship. It allows us to assess our performance, identify areas for improvement, and build strong and productive partnerships. However, feedback also needs to be delivered in a way that is respectful, constructive, and founded on trust.

If you cannot offer feedback in the moment, choose your time and place carefully. Think about times when the individual will be most receptive to the exchange and try to avoid moments like just before a meeting or when they’re about to leave for the weekend. Context is critical if you want what you say to penetrate. If you require a more formal setting, do it early in the day at the start of the work week, so they have a chance to put your suggestions into action.


5.     Contextualize the problem

There are times when bias creeps into performance review scenarios and results in an unfair situation assessment. For example, you may have a female employee working from home, and you feel she is not collaborating adequately with her team. Ask yourself first how you feel about their work and contribution in general—and then think about whether you would think differently about the situation if she was in the office every day. It’s easy to disregard employees you don’t see all the time. Perhaps she needs to adapt her schedule to engage with in-office staff more. Don’t immediately assume the problem lies with her.

This is just one example, but it covers two types of bias: gender and proximity. It also shows how difficult bias can be to recognize. Other aspects of bias include racism, ageism, affinity bias (preference for people who are more like ourselves), and attribution bias (the misconception that women are less competent than men).

Contextualizing the problem before you give feedback means tying the issue to specific business goals without the influence of conscious or unconscious bias.


6.     Focus on the future

As a manager, one of your most important jobs is to elevate your employees. Actionable feedback is a way to accomplish this and will almost always improve performance. Feedback often focuses on events that happened in the past. While the core issue likely happened before your conversation took place, the future is where the change will happen—so that’s what you need to focus on.

Spend less time talking about the event itself than you do about the improvements you want to see. You can’t do much about what’s already happened, but you can shape how things move forward. With a positive outlook, a clear and actionable plan, and an honest, two-way dialogue, much can be accomplished.


Final Thoughts

When providing feedback, we should always be clear, direct, and specific. Above all, we must strive to be fair. To maximize the impact of feedback, managers must remain objective, be aware of hidden biases, and allow employees to provide their own perspectives. Feedback isn’t always easy to give, but we all improve with practice.

Tools to Help Managers Become Performance Coaches

emPerform is a complete performance management platform that includes an entire toolset designed to help align, develop, engage & retain valuable talent, including online reviews, ongoing feedback, coaching assistant tools, peer feedback and more.

Book your demo today



A recent study showed that less than 20% of millennial employees surveyed say they receive regular feedback from their manager. Don’t make employees hunt for feedback – give managers the tools needed to engage in ongoing & effective feedback, check-ins and coaching.

Help boost the frequency & quality of employee feedback in your organization with emPerform tag.

Using tag, managers and employees can:

  • send feedback & create performance journals year-round
  • recognize employee milestones as they happen
  • allow for easy 360° feedback anytime, from any device
  • ensure employees get the feedback needed to succeed
  • document check-ins and 1:1 meetings with ease
  • improve the quality of performance comments and ratings

tag is included as part of emPerform’s full-featured performance management software suite. Get started today and join companies around the world who are achieving performance management success.


Be sure to check out and share these helpful resources to help your employees succeed with feedback.


Psychology of Feedback

Improve Your Coaching Skills by Understanding the Psychology of Feedback.

Do you ever wonder why it’s so difficult to give and receive feedback in the workplace? Many owners and managers struggle with pointing out areas of improvement for their employees. Employees, in turn, often have a hard time hearing they aren’t performing up to standards or that some areas of their work could be better. While feedback can be a complicated subject, it’s also a necessary one. Why? Because effective and honest feedback is key to an engaged workplace. In a survey, 77% of the workplaces with the highest employee engagement were those that employed a consistent method of feedback.

But how do you give feedback in a way that its recipient responds to it positively? As an HR professional or manager, having a basic grasp of the psychology of feedback can help you develop a more effective feedback strategy.

Here are some things to consider concerning the psychology of feedback:


Know that Most Employees Equate Feedback with Criticism

Feedback, in its best form, combines positive reinforcement with tips on how to improve certain areas of one’s performance. However, most of your employees probably equate ‘feedback’ with ‘criticism.’ Whether this is due to past situations or a simple human bias, most of your employees fear feedback. Why? Because criticism is processed as a threat to our survival in the human brain. It’s important to educate your team on all the benefits of feedback and temper all negative comments with plenty of affirmation on jobs well done.

Realize the Connection Between Feedback and Trust

Did you know that feedback is next to useless when it comes from someone your employee doesn’t trust? Human beings want to connect with others and it’s only through this connection that they can feel vulnerable enough to process feedback. When you task someone to give feedback who does not work closely with your team, you impede the process before it even starts. When you allow peers, trusted managers, and respected leaders to give feedback, you play on the bonds that have already been formed, and feedback is better processed and acted upon.

Your Confident Employees Will Welcome Critical Feedback

Most business owners know that their team is made up of some incredibly self-confident individuals as well as those who need a lot of affirmation. Confident team members can take more negative, constructive feedback better because they don’t view it as a threat to their employment or self-image. However, insecure employees may feel they are in danger of getting fired. Once you realize this, you can tailor feedback to the individual. Understanding the psychology of feedback will help you to realize your confident workers may require a more unvarnished truth, while you may need to sugarcoat comments for others.

Praise Should Focus on Effort, Not Ability

You may think that praising your superstar salesperson for their stellar skills that landed a big deal is a perfect example of motivating feedback, but you could be wrong. According to the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, when we praise ability or results instead of effort, we send the wrong message. We are, in a sense, telling our employees that praise is dependent on their outcomes or their innate talents, and not on hard work or perseverance. Because they cannot control outcomes nor their personality characteristics, they can easily get demoralized when things don’t go their way. Effort, on the other hand, can always be controlled. When you praise effort regardless of results, you motivate employees to give 100%.

When you understand why your team may fear feedback and how to get around their psychological blocks, you can better incorporate a system of growth. Effective feedback is crucial for a strong team, and the above tips can help you improve morale and provide a dynamic workplace.

Give your workforce the tools needed to share and centralize feedback and performance observations. If you would like a system to help engage managers and employees in more frequent feedback and coaching in your organization, take a peek at emPerform, which includes year-round appraisals with automated check-ins and tools for easy journaling and feedback.


Using 360° reviews, pulse surveys & ongoing feedback to identify and address toxic behavior before it spreads in your organization.


Last week I sat down at my desk armed with a hot coffee and a stack of some of my favorite HR Publications. I usually save them up then binge-read them once every few weeks to stay on top of the latest news and trends in Business, Leadership, and Human Resources. I have been doing this for many years and today was the first time that one topic appeared in ALL magazines. The topic was that of toxicity in the workplace.

Each article had its own focus but they all alluded to the growing awareness of people-driven workplace negativity and damaging behaviors and their toxic effects on an organization. We learn from an early age that a bad apple will spoil the bunch, and that negativity and bullying, if left unchecked, will corrode even the best group-setting. We also learn that one bad manager can make an amazing job feel like prison and reduce employees’ trust in the company’s leadership abilities.

Workplace bullying and toxic behavior aren’t new- they have been happening since the dawn of the cubicle- but the way organizations are confronting the issue is. Because organizations can link employee satisfaction and engagement to cold hard dollars, they are simply not tolerating any avoidable forces that can hinder a productive atmosphere. In fact, many organizations are using a combination of pulse surveys, 360° reviews, and ongoing feedback to actively identify any signs of toxicity in order to prevent and treat it.

What makes an employee toxic?

The truth is that it isn’t people that are toxic – it is their actions and behaviors. Toxic behaviors in this context are the direct actions by employees that have a negative impact on others, either immediately or cumulatively over time. These can include bullying, harassment, volatility, slander, and overall negativity. These behaviors adversely affect how other employees (and likely customers) feel and their level of comfort at work.

Although research clearly indicates that workplace ‘bullies’ or anyone who knowingly demeans others is the result of their own weakness and insecurities, that reality doesn’t make experiencing it any less damaging. It is essential to target the people exhibiting these trends in behavior and address them immediately in order to quell the effects and re-enforce the company’s commitment to employee and client satisfaction.

What are the costs of toxic employees?

Not only is valuable time wasted dealing with the aftermath of toxic behaviors, but they also unleash an invisible cloud of poisonous negativity that can suffocate team collaboration, satisfaction and the overall perception of the organization. Loss of productivity, increased sick-days, employee turnover, and divided teams are just some of the costs of letting toxic employees corrode an organization, not to mention the potential legal (eek) implications. Danger also lies in the precedent that it sets for existing and new employees. Toxicity breeds toxicity.

Let’s take a step back and face the reality that some of the toxic employees in your organizations could be managers. Managers aren’t immune to toxic behavior and in fact, are more likely to have their actions go unnoticed due to their rank in the organization. Toxic managers erode teams and their performance, resulting in top talent and future leaders walking right out the door.

Toxic employees can also destroy customer relationships. If you have a customer-facing employee who is negative, disorganized, volatile or inappropriate, they risk losing clients and staining your company’s reputation.

In short, toxic employees are a liability. We have met many company leaders who would terminate even the most high-performing employee if they were toxic because the costs of this lethal behavior outweigh any potential benefits.

Challenges with identifying toxic employees:

Leadership is often in the dark: A big challenge with identifying toxic employees is that these behaviors are not often witnessed by or shared with leadership. Everyone tends to put on their Sunday-best around managers and leaders, leaving toxic actions unrecognized and unaddressed.  Or worse, leaders are the source of the toxicity in which case subordinates are less likely to report.

We all have a bad day: Even the best of us can have an off day where we are a little down or reactive. It is a challenge to discern one-off accounts (which we all have) vs. actual personality types and trends that indicate an employee might be toxic.

Lines aren’t defined: If an organization does not outline behavioral expectations or harassment/bullying policies, then employees might be unaware of the effects of their actions or others might have difficulty identifying occurrences as real issues. Similarly, if an employee’s culture isn’t centered on respect and positivity (and the leadership team does not perpetuate those ideals), employees are less likely to mimic those values.

12 months is a long time: If organizations are relying on traditional once-a-year reviews to target issues, then they are likely going to miss toxic behavior that is happening throughout the year or will have a difficult time identifying toxic trends that go undocumented.

Sifting Out Toxic Employees:

How can an organization turn on the flood lights and reveal employees who might be toxic? The answer is very simple: ASK!

Screen Candidates for Toxic Behavior: Organizations should attempt to prevent contamination altogether by screening applicants for potentially toxic personalities. Even though most candidates will show their good side during the interview process, there are questions that can serve as a relative Geiger counter to help identify levels of toxicity1. Did they complain about their last employer? Do they say ‘I’ a lot? How do they respond to negative questions? Are they open about areas in need of improvement? What did their references say about their interactions with peers? Did they have a positive demeanor?

Pulse Surveys: Pulse surveys are short and sweet questionnaires (2-10 questions max) that are sent out regularly throughout the year to assess the status (i.e. take the pulse) of a particular area of improvement2. Pulse surveys are anonymous and allow an organization to see trends in data over time to get a real-time view of their internal health. Although every organization approaches pulse surveys with a different focus, we believe that a few questions about teams and interactions with other employees is vital to hone in on any potentially toxic behavior. Questions like ‘I feel safe working with other employees’, ‘Interactions with my peers is generally positive’, or ‘I would recommend a friend to work at this company’. Pulse surveys might also reveal larger forces that might be contributing to toxic behaviors. Sometimes management or organizational issues can be the root cause of the sludge.

360° Peer Reviews: If a company’s leadership team is really interested in sifting out toxic workers, then 360° peer reviews are a great way to identify irregularities. Asking peers to provide feedback on their managers and peers by commenting on their skills and general working habits will reveal any caustic trends. Although 360°’s can be plagued by biased views and often do not take place as frequently as they should, they are very reliable in their ability to reveal trends. If an employee’s name continues to creep up in reviews or if an entire team unanimously identifies toxic behavior in certain staff members, then it’s usually a red flag (or at least a place to start). 360°’s might also help prevent toxic behavior. By creating an atmosphere of transparency and accountability, peers are more likely to be aware of their own potentially toxic actions before they surface.

Ongoing Feedback: Toxic employees need not be necessarily cast away. Often times, employees do not realize they are being toxic. This makes it even more crucial for managers to keep a keen eye out for toxic behavior as it happens and address with the employee immediately. Managers might not see it all but if they keep their ear to the ground they are likely to catch a whiff of any poisonous concoctions brewing. Often times, managers turn a blind eye or write the small incidences off as normal ‘spats’ between workers, but it’s important that managers are trained to recognize the smaller behaviors before they become even bigger issue.

By giving employee consistent feedback (positive & constructive), not only will the feedback be expected, but employees are given the proper changes to correct their actions. Frequent feedback also opens up the lines of communications between manager and employees, allowing managers to diagnose if behavior is an isolated event caused by personal issues perhaps, or a more permanent personality trait that isn’t likely to go away.

Overall, there is no such thing as a perfect place to work. Wherever there is a group of people, different personality types along with increased work pressures will result in strains of toxic incidences no matter which company. The important thing is that organizations realize the immense costs involved with allowing toxic behaviors to seep into teams and work to contain it. By having a well-defined culture of positivity and respect, poling employee satisfaction regularly, asking employees for input on their peers, and training managers to identify and deal with toxic actions on an ongoing basis, any organization can neutralize toxic effects.

If you would like to learn more about how emPerform can help create and automate pulse surveys, 360° reviews and ongoing feedback, we invite you to schedule a demo with a member of the emPerform team.


 1 Office Vibe: Why HR Needs To Invest In Employee Pulse Surveys by Jacob Shriar – December 15, 2014 s

2 BOS Staffing 7 Identifiers Of A Toxic Employee Before You Hire Them Posted June 22 2016

Michael Williams, Joseph Youngblood II. “Workplace Bullying: Rage, Resistance and Reform.” Human Resources Executive Magazine June 2-2016. Page 32. Print.

Iain Hopkins, Anne Grant. “Putting our fires: Workplace conflict resolution.” HRD Human Resources Director. Issue 4.2. Page 36. Print.

Mark McGraw. “The High Cost of Caustic Workers.” Human Resources Executive Magazine May 2016. Page 10. Print.



AdobeStock_44576903How introducing simple performance logs into your organization can take the chill out of appraisal season.

Appraisal season is that wonderful time of year when managers everywhere sit down to regroup and determine if their team is performing at the levels expected of them in their roles.

It’s also the perfect time for managers and employees to spend some one-on-one time discussing challenges and development opportunities and for organizational leaders to assess the talent landscape of their organization. It all sounds like snowflakes and cinnamon right? Not exactly. In reality, this is often a very chilly and stressful time of year for managers and employees. And here’s why.

Why appraisal season can be stressful:

Uncertainty: If performance management is limited to once-a-year appraisals, employees aren’t certain about what to expect and managers aren’t clear as to how employees will respond. The whole thing can cause a load of dread for all involved.

Lack of Confidence: Employees often see appraisals as a less-than-accurate representation of their actual performance. Many factors can lead to this perception, but one of the biggest stems from the fact that managers simply cannot recall every account of performance for their entire team. This can lead to mistrust of the entire appraisal process and tension from employees whose accomplishments might be overlooked.

Deadlines: Appraisal season often coincides with other end-of-year activities. Because business must go on as usual, finding the time to submit complete and effective appraisals can be challenging and quite stressful for managers and HR.

How to reduce appraisal-related stress using performance logs.

We work with many companies that have significantly reduced the tension surrounding appraisals and greatly increased the effectiveness of their performance management efforts by introducing a simple yet powerful tool – performance logs.

Performance logs (or journals) are simply notes made by an employee to document their own performance progress and accomplishments, or made by managers to note trends and examples related to their employees’ performance. This is happening in many organizations already in the form of post-its, hallway-feedback, or emails but for the most part, it isn’t a structured or centralized process.

By giving managers and employees an accessible, consistent and informal tool to record performance logs, users are more likely to use it and reap the benefits.

What should and shouldn’t be recorded in a performance log?

What to include in a performance log:

  • Deadlines missed/deadlines met or exceeded
  • Accomplishments or improvements
  • Trends in performance (positive or negative)
  • Specific behaviors related to performance
  • Instances of tardiness or inconsistent attendance
  • Recap of status meeting discussions
  • Recap of feedback given throughout the review cycle (directly or from peers)
  • Disciplinary actions and discussions
  • Examples – pasted emails, files, etc.

What NOT to include in a performance log:

  • Rumors or third-party unsubstantiated complaints regarding the employee
  • Theories about ‘why’ an employee displays a behavior.
  • Personal information regarding an employee
  • Vague notes

5 Ways Performance Logs Can Significantly Improve Employee Appraisals

  1. Reduce bias in appraisals: Recency bias happens to the best of us. It is the tendency to rely solely on relatively recent accounts as a basis for ratings and to assume those trends will continue. This means employees aren’t being evaluated fairly based on an entire appraisal cycle – only what managers can recall clearly in the last few months or weeks. By keeping a detailed record of performance observations and trends, both managers and employees are less likely to forget key accomplishments, milestones, development needs or performance trends which took place during the year. This results in more accurate and fair appraisals.
  1. Save loads of time completing appraisals: When employees sit down to fill in ratings and comments in their self-assessments, or managers do the same for their team, they are often faced with a blank page and a case of serious writer’s block. Deciding which ratings best reflect performance or comments to use to support ratings can be a challenge for all involved and leads to a lot of time spent trying to fill everything in. Having clear performance notes accessible when completing appraisals is shown to greatly reduce the amount of time needed to complete appraisals. These time-savings add up big time, especially for managers who sometimes have to complete dozens of appraisals.
  1. Keeps performance management top-of-mind throughout the year: There’s more to performance management than just the annual appraisal. By encouraging managers to keep an updated log of performance, organizations are creating a culture of ongoing performance management, where all aspects of an employee’s performance and development are considered more than just once a year. This results in timely performance discussions and feedback, and better recognition of employee accomplishments. By tracking performance details closely throughout the year, managers are also more likely to identify and prevent performance issues before they become a problem.
  1. Provides a record of performance discussions: It is shocking to think of the number of informal and formal meetings that might take place between managers and employees in the span of a year. Performance logs are a great way to easily jot down few key points from these meetings, resulting in a complete summary of performance discussions to use for coaching, feedback and of course, to help complete appraisals and set effective performance goals.
  1. Removes the shock-factor: Surprise! There should be no surprises in appraisals. In fact, as mentioned above, the greatest source of anxiety related to appraisals happens when both parties aren’t completely confident about what the appraisal will contain or how it will be received. By keeping performance logs up-to-date and by encouraging frequent feedback, employees are more likely to know what to expect and managers can steer the conversation towards the future, instead of spending time justifying the appraisal itself.

Avoid the chill of appraisal-season. By centralizing feedback and journaling and encouraging performance logs, appraisal season will leave employees feeling toastier than ever.

Want an easy tool for recording performance logs and feedback? Explore emPerform tag.


feedbackFor generations, supervisors across every industry have been dogged by a similar question during the review process: How can feedback, both positive and negative, be delivered in a way that actually makes employee performance improve? How can constructive criticism be delivered without de-motivating employees, and how can praise be delivered in a way that supports continued growth? What makes an employee take feedback to heart without taking it personally? What makes feedback stick, last, add value, and bring real change?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but while HR departments search and wait for a collective epiphany, here are five key points that managers and supervisors need to keep in mind:

1. The value of feedback stays high when channels remain open.

A sudden blast of unaccustomed feedback once a year, whether positive or negative, isn’t likely to have much impact on long term performance. A manager who rarely offers feedback will eventually seem disconnected from an employee’s daily activities. And how much can praise or criticism mean when it Read More

Driving Employee Performance through Year-Round Painless Performance Conversationsmarni webinar
Date: Wed, June 18th, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM EDT

Conversations transform organizations and entire organizations suffer when leaders fail to have continuous conversations that drive performance improvement.

Join us for this practical and interactive webinar that will offer real-life, tangible solutions and tools leaders need to tackle critical workplace discussions with confidence.

marni green Based on her new book, Painless Performance Conversations:
A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions, author Marnie E. Green will give us a step-by-step, “here’s what to say” solution to tackling your toughest performance discussions and how to keep them going year-round. Through this session you’ll receive actionable tools you can apply immediately to transform your organization into one that is performance-driven and results-focused.

All attendees will be entered into a live draw for 5 copies of Marnie’s new book!

We hope you can join us for this exciting event!

Year-Round Performance Feedback at Your Fingertips:

Looking to give managers and employees the tools they need to engage in year-round performance conversations? Get started with a free trial of emPerform’s award-winning performance management software; including ‘tag’ for real-time feedback.

This webinar has passed and is available for viewing here:

approved_forThis webinar has been approved for 1.0 HR General recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute. The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HR Certification Institute of the quality of the program. It means that this program has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for re certification credit.

FEEDBACK. It’s a tough one for HR, managers, and employees to deal with effectively and is often feared and avoided as if it were a bad word.

To help organizations create an effective feedback strategy within their organizations, we have put together some of our favorite resources on the topic. These practical videos, blogs, and whitepapers will help shed some light on the importance of ongoing employee feedback and offer some practical tips on how to create a feedback centric culture today.


Webinar Download: The F-Word

FeedbackIn this dynamic archived webinar, emPerform has teamed up with a panel of experts to help HR and Managers tackle feedback within their organizations. Get your complimentary download and gain some insight into: Read More


According to a growing number of managers backed by HR studies across a wide range of fields, it may be time to rethink the approach to traditional annual performance reviews. The yearly review cycle has been a staple of business culture for several decades, but evidence now suggests that employees show higher levels of engagement when feedback and coaching take place on a regular, informal, continuous basis throughout the year. Consider enhancing  your review processes with year-round performance management activities. Why you ask? Read More