How to Give Effective Feedback

Who doesn’t like positive feedback? It’s self-energizing for us to share, while supporting interpersonal relationships and team efforts. What about constructive feedback? Most of us struggle with how to deliver this type of feedback. Some avoid giving constructive feedback altogether in the hopes that undesired behaviors will “magically disappear.” Explore this post and references on giving effective feedback to diminish undesired behaviors, provide the opportunity for others to grow, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and discover personal changes that you could make too.

Here are my definitions for three types of feedback:

  • Positive feedback = kind or complimentary words that make someone feel good
  • Negative feedback = sharp (voice tone) or derogatory words that make someone feel bad
  • Constructive feedback = supportive words to change one behavior; don’t “stack up” numerous items based on your frustrations because that becomes an attack on the individual who will receive the feedback

The behaviorism feedback view from The Feedback Loop by Mayo Clinic’s Heidi Dunfee, PT, DScPT, and Aaron Rindflesch, PT, PhD, MPT, NCS, notes that feedback reinforces behavior, but that the absence of feedback also reinforces behavior. I remember a time in my career when I was in training at a new job. On my second day, another employee walked behind me and said something kind of snappy. My trainer waited until that employee passed, then leaned toward me and said, “Just ignore her. She’s been that way every morning for the last ten years.” My thought at that time was, “Ten years?! Why hasn’t anyone given her feedback about her behavior instead of warning others about her?”

Other definitions related to feedback include:

  • Formative feedback: monitors trainee learning via ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by trainees to improve their learning.


  • Summative feedback: evaluates trainee learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against a pre-established standard or benchmark.

When thinking about feedback in the work setting, a distinction needs to be made relative to:

  • Assessment: the process of objectively understanding the state or condition of a thing, by observation or measurement.


  • Evaluation: the process of observing and measuring a thing for the purpose of judging it to determine its “value,” either by comparison to similar things or to a standard.

Feedback tips from a Mayo Clinic colleague, Carrie Bowler, M.S., and me:

  1. Focus on changeable behaviors.
  2. Avoid hearsay; use observations of + and - behaviors.
  3. Be descriptive and specific.
  4. Consider the individual's needs.
  5. Stay away from saying "always" or "never."
  6. Provide achievable suggestions for improvement.
  7. Keep the intent about growth for the individual, not about personality traits or style.


  • Job Performance Feedback: 7 Tips for Receiving Feedback Gracefully: :">
  • Ramani and Krackov. Twelve tips for giving feedback effectively in the clinical environment. Medical Teacher, 2012;34(10):787-791.

Thomas Huntley

Thomas Huntley, MT (ASCP,) is an Education Coordinator in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. His primary focus is to facilitate department orientation, coordinate department Grand Rounds, and sharing his passion about email management with others via hands-on workshops.