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When you have a second, can I talk to you? Oh, those words would give me such a fright, especially when it came from a person in authority.

When I was new in my career, those words sent me to the pits of every past insecurity within my professional experience. I mean, each second of getting closer to the time of the conversation became an emotional disastrous countdown.

I would feel my heart pounding outside my chest, a headache would appear out of nowhere, the room literally would go into slow motion. And, who can forget those racing thoughts…my boss hates me, what did I do wrong? I’m going to be let go…the list went on and on. Trying to get back to my task would be nearly impossible.

I often shared my own experiences with past feedback anxieties with clients. Many clients were able to relate to the intense reaction I had.

Through reflection, I realized these reactions came from somewhere. Quite frankly, a part of these reactions was due to the lack of or inconsistent managerial models of constructive feedback.

Research shows that honest, yet supportive feedback can boost performance and build employee resilience. But, when feedback is given ineffectively, it destroys motivation and decreases task engagement (Seppälä , 2016).

It has been a journey of self-discovery and seeking mentorship, but, most importantly, a journey of having managerial models for rebuilding the broken connection of feedback and empowerment.

If managers can implement these simple steps when managing their employees, it can positively impact employee professional growth, creativity, improve performance and lower turnover.

1. What are the reasons behind the feedback?

Working with managers, one of the struggles they have is how to deliver constructive feedback in the evaluation process. Some fears mentioned were hurting the employees’ feelings or that this may harm the professional relationship.

One thing I take the time to encourage my clients to do is to determine the objective of feedback, the desired long-term outcome for the feedback and the best way to communicate the message.

Developing a good relationship with your employees is paramount to create empathy and trust. I have supported managers by teaching them to how to regulate their own emotions while being supportive of the feelings of their employees.

Studies show that positive feedback is a pathway to what you are doing well. This increases confidence and commitment. While negative feedback shows a path to where you went wrong. It is informative, showing you where to place your efforts and how to improve (Grant Halvorson, 2013).

Before you offer feedback, reflect on the why first. It helps develop empathy and genuineness in the conversation.

2. Tailor your feedback

The best managerial role model in my life was one that tailored feedback to my style and rhythm of doing things. I mentioned that, earlier in my career, I had a lot of feedback anxieties. But, what happened to all that anxiety? Did it just disappear? I wish I could tell you that I just snapped my fingers and, poof, the anxiety was gone…

No, it actually took time for my brain to make new connections by seeing empathy modelled in my feedback time and again. What was awesome was I could see how my feedback changed as my experience evolved.

Research highlights novices and experts within the workplace are looking for and motivated by different kinds of information. Novices’ feedback often is optimistic to help bring comfort to an already unnerving experience, while experts need more negative feedback to perfect their skills (Grant Halvorson, 2013).

High-performing organizations tend to give more supportive statements than negative ones. The next time you deliver feedback, try taking into consideration where your employees are, giving supportive, appreciative and encouraging statements for every critical or disapproving statement. This will help you become creative, give thought and meaning to the conversation.

Here’s the catch: You can’t tailor information without actually getting to know your employees.

3. The importance of follow-up

Have you ever come away from a conversation that you thought you understood, and, when you checked in with the person later, you totally missed the mark?

Our perceptions are quite unique, and, if a thought or a question is concerning, that thought can linger all day.

We have all have had that one conversation that has ruined our day. Research shows the reaction to feedback can be task-focused, improving work habits or the feeling of threat decreasing overall productivity (Kim & Kim, 2020).

For one reason or another, our brains tend to hold on to negative feedback more than positive. By choosing to have a follow-up conversation, you can review the positive and negative feedback while doing it in a positive context.

There are many benefits to following up with your employees after a meeting, evaluation or various conversations. It helps reduce employee stress, increases productivity and generates creative ideas on how to move forward.

4. Improve creativity by adding collaboration

The most successful clients I have found are the ones who take an active role in their own treatment plan, reflecting and owning their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, rather than someone else’s. Having a role in your own success helps boost creativity, commitment and overall empowerment.

It not only improves creativity, but it helps to stay objective rather than focusing on one way of doing things.

According to Dr. Emma Seppälä, a faculty director at the Yale School of Management, staying objective within the collaboration process is key. She explains describing the concern, identifying consequences or personal feelings with helpful suggestions can help escape the trap of the blame game within the workplace.

The next time you have a feedback conversation, ensure it is not comparative to others but focused on past performances with the current performance in mind. This can reduce competition and motivate employees to improve their own work (Kim & Kim, 2020).

When we get out of that trap of the blame game, it leaves room for creative solutions to flourish.

How can STRiVE Mental Health, Wellness & Empowerment help?

The well-being of your employees is paramount to us. STRiVE helps organizations develop strategies by providing tools to help employees recover from burnout and boost productivity. The goal is to provide top-quality evidence-based program development and workshops, both in person and virtually, while building long-term resilient employees. We want to help your organization. Contact us at to learn more.

Works cited

Grant Halvorson, H., 2013. Sometimes, Negative Feedback Is Best. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2021].

Hu, J., He, W. & Zhou, K., 2020. The Mind, the Heart, and the Leader in Times of Crisis: How and When COVID-19-Triggered Mortality Salience Relates to State Anxiety, Job Engagement, and Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 11(105), pp. 1218-1233.
Kim, J. & Kim, Y., 2020. Does Negative Feedback Benefit (or Harm) Recipient Creativity? The Role of the Direction of Feedback Flow. Academy of Management Journal, 63(2), pp. 584-612.
Seppälä, E., 2016. 3 Highly Effective Ways to Give Critical Feedback: How to Give Candid Feedback for the Best Results in any Relationship. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2021].
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