Top Tips for Customizing Employee Feedback

BY Kathy Crosett
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It’s never easy to deliver difficult news to an employee. When a team member isn’t performing up to expectations, you have to decide which approach to take. To ensure a successful outcome, take the employee's personality and work experience into account when giving feedback.


If you have access to an employee’s personality and behavioral profile through a system like DISC, you’ll gain some insight into how to approach the conversation. For example, workers who fall into the C quadrant of this system are innately conscientious. You can appeal to that need when you talk to them. Tell them you understand they want things to be perfect, but explain that they’ll also need to increase their speed. Give them a specific target or goal to work towards.


Dan Rockwell, at LeadershipFreak, encourages managers to think about an employee’s length of service when you’re preparing to dole out a bit of criticism. In Rockwell’s opinion, “experienced leaders enjoy being told what they’re doing wrong, as long as it helps them improve.” For example, one of your senior managers tends to give great presentations. That same person also loses people during presentations because of the polysyllabic words they use. You can praise this employee for what they’re doing right, and then let them know that they could make a deeper connection with the audience through simpler words.

You can be fairly certain this employee will accept and use this type of feedback. You know them well and you understand and feel their commitment to organization.

New Employees

When you’re working with a new employee, you won’t have that same level of comfort. You can’t be certain how they’ll take any kind of negative feedback. For that reason, Rockwell recommends giving “novices and employees 5X more positive than negative feedback." Over the course of a week, you might tell a new employee they’re doing a good job making eye contact during presentations. Then, you might praise them for speaking clearly, pausing appropriately and interacting well with the audience. Finally, you can get to the point where you’ll suggest they use simpler words during presentations.

This kind of feedback loop takes managerial time and energy. In the end, investment in customized feedback will increase employee loyalty to you and the organization.