Giving Effective Feedback to Lead Positive Change


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Let’s face it: Offering effective feedback is not an easy skill. Many administrative professionals dread providing feedback, because they fear it may hurt someone's feelings, offend them, or even make them cry. They also are afraid it will make others dislike them. The irony is, we all hunger for feedback; and when done effectively, feedback helps us improve and develop as a professional.

When delivering feedback, we must understand that it’s a commentary on how you think someone is doing, which could include positive or negative observations. or both.

What Is Effective Feedback?

Feedback that is heard and acted upon is considered effective feedback. This type of feedback is offered in a constructive manner and is what we should all strive to deliver.

Providing effective feedback shows you are focused on providing feedback in a supportive manner, to help the individual learn and grow, and not to insult, belittle or punish them. 

Feedback shouldn’t be dreaded; instead, it should be seen as a positive event. Follow these proven steps to provide more effective and constructive feedback.

Speak Clearly

When sharing feedback, ensure people hear what you’re communicating. Use clear, descriptive language.

Helpful Words                           

  • When I...                      
  • Specific days/dates        
  • Could you try...?
  • What do you think?

Unhelpful Words

  • Always
  • Never
  • Must
  • Have to
  • I insist!
  • I think...

For example, when you use the words “When I,” they’ll
help to reduce tension. The person might get defensive when using a “you” phrase, such as, “When you sent that email, you lost me at…” Instead, say, “When I read your email, I got a little lost at the section about…”

Stay Neutral

Words and body language are our only real tools when verbally delivering feedback. It’s important to manage your verbal and nonverbal communications. 

Your goal is to provide constructive feedback that’s heard and acted upon, so it’s essential that both your verbal and nonverbal communication are speaking the same language. For example, if you care about that person, look them in the eye when speaking rather than avoiding eye contact.

Be Relevant

Keep the conversation focused on feedback that’s relevant and job related, as well as things you have control over. For example, complaining about the way a document looks after printing from a poor-performing printer, knowing there’s no budget for a new printer, adds to stress and frustration.

Be Honest and Conversational

Avoid talking down to others. Instead, always be considerate and genuine. Backhanded comments or passive-aggressive behavior undermine the feedback process.

Ask Questions

If want to provide effective feedback, ask thoughtful questions. This will allow you to glean more information about the person's work, thoughts and feelings. and will help to improve your active listening skills.

  • Open-Ended Questions: These are broad, general questions that require the individual to provide more than just a yes or no answer. Open-ended questions are ideal when you want to get more information and encourage others to speak openly. It also helps to determine if you’ve understood what was said.
  • Probing Questions: This is an effective communication strategy when you’re not getting the information you need. Probing questions help to expand the conversation and encourage the person to add to their previous response. Probes are often a single word or short phrase, such as:
    • "Tell me more about that."
    • "That's interesting. Tell me more."
    • "Really?"
    • "Why?"
    • "Can you give me a specific example of what you mean?"    

The right questions provide structure to your feedback. Follow these guidelines:

  • Ask one question at a time.
  • Phrase your question in simple, understandable words
  • Keep your questions brief. 
  • Keep your phrasing positive, which will encourage conversation.
  • Use open-ended questions to gather information.
  • Follow-up on incomplete answers by probing for more information.

Check for Understanding

Ask the individual to summarize what you’ve said to ensure they understand.

Giving effective feedback is a skill; and like any skill, it takes practice to be successful. Above all, effective feedback comes from the heart. Others will welcome your feedback when they feel you sincerely care and want to support them.

About the Author: Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results-oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.

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