As a Manager: Give Feedback on Specifics Only

As a Manager: Give Feedback on Specifics Only

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Table of Contents

Specific feedback generates less animosity

It's natural that people will become defensive and/or downright confrontative when given a negative feedback.

When the manager however makes it clear that the feedback it about one specific action/behaviour and not about the person themselves, it usually leads to a better outcome.

In other words, by being very precise and specific, you make it less likely that your report will get the feeling you don't like them as a person.

Always use concrete examples

Giving specific feedback means that you will mention the exact

  • occasions
  • times
  • actions

that could/should have been different.

Good Bad
"During our last meeting with team X, you answered a question about system Y in a way that made it look like you don't really care about the problem when you said that it was not your responsibility.

Do you see another way this question could have been answered?"
"During meetings you usually give an impression that you don't take your work seriously."

Smaller chance of subjective interactions

It's much easier to be led into subjective or affinity-based assessments when you give general or nonspecific feedback to your reports.

It's very easy to confuse work effectiveness with likability and generic (non-specific) feedback makes it easier still.

Decreased risk of incentivizing complacency

When generic positive feedback is given, your report may be led to believe that they are doing so well that there is no point they can get better at.

This is obviously we want to avoid - there are always points one can get better at, and it's your job as a manager to help reports see those.

Just more effective

In addition to all other points mentioned here, the fact is that generic feedback is just less effective because it's less actionable.

A feedback of the type "You are doing very well, congratulations" leads to no real benefit, other than making the other person feel valued (which is not unimportant, mind you), because it doesn't explain which specific behaviours/actions were positive.

Also, general feedback may get misunderstood or even backfire (leadees may not actually understand where and how their actions were good or bad).

Specific, example-driven feedback is more actionable and there's less room for misunderstading (especially when working remotely).

Don't forget to say why and show what can be done instead

When you need to give negative/constructive feedback, make sure it:

  • 1) Is precise/specific
  • 2) Says why
  • 3) Presents a "way out" (i.e. what should be done instead)


  • Good Feedback (says why, gives example on how to be better): "In our last team meeting you showed two different charts on the same slide. This makes it confusing for people to compare both figures and draw conclusions from the data. A good idea is to use the same scale on the Y-Axis so they're comparable."

  • Bad Feedback: (doesn't say why, doesn't say what should have been done) "In our last team meeting you showed two different charts on the same slide, which was confusing."

  • Worse still (too generic, not actionable, doesn't explain why) "When giving a presentation, try to make charts easier to understand, they are a bit confusing."

Dialogue & Discussion