A Look into the Four Types of Workplace Feedback

Feedback is crucial for maximizing the value of your team. However, not all feedback is the same. By mastering the four types of workplace feedback, you can target your communication to the situation and get the most out of your employees.

Few people doubt the overall value of feedback. Even negative feedback has its place, with more than eight in 10 employees (82%) saying they appreciate both positive and negative commentary. Meanwhile, more than 75% of people describe feedback as valuable.

However, it’s important to consider how you interact with employees at these critical times. The right feedback delivered in the wrong way can muddle the message. A poorly phrased remark made off-the-cuff can significantly damage your relationship with a team member.

To guard against these missteps, you need to learn how to frame your communications to gain the maximum response. With that in mind, here’s a look at the four types of workplace feedback:

Directive Feedback

Think of this as giving a direct order. You want your employee to change the way they operate or want them to complete a specific task. So you “direct” them in what they should do.

This might seem like a very straightforward approach to feedback. However, there are subtleties to master. You want to phrase your instructions constructively, but you also need to make sure you are understood.

As part of this approach, remain sensitive to your workers’ feelings. At the same time, stay clear in your instructions and don’t leave doubt in what you want to happen.

Contingency Feedback

Here, you let people know the consequences of their actions. This type of feedback looks to promote certain actions by describing what will happen as a result. Think of these comments as a series of “if…then…” statements.

Contingency feedback can take the form of either positive and negative reinforcement. You can say something like, “if you keep showing up late for work, we’ll have to fire you.” Or you can give encouragement along the lines of “if you keep up the good work, you’ll be eligible for the next promotion.”

Attribution Feedback

This might be the type of communication we think of when we hear the term “feedback.” It involves characterizing an employee’s actions, either positively or negatively. In other words, you are attributing some quality to their work or to them as an employee.

Consider examples like “you did a good job on this report” or “your punctuality is below average.” These kinds of statements represent common fodder for performance reviews or for improving your employee’s output.

The key here is to realize that attribution feedback only represents one category among four. It’s often overemphasized, along with directive feedback, in professional settings, with supervisors leaning too much on this mode of communication.

Certainly, attribution feedback has its place. But you also need to master the other forms as well. That way, you can get the most out of your employees.

Impact Feedback

This model of feedback involves revealing your deeper reasoning for the direction. The goal here is to motivate action by making your team member understand the impact their success or failure will have on others.

When people comprehend the larger picture, they become more motivated to do their part. At the same time, you might generate innovation. By knowing the consequences, an employee might suggest a better way to achieve the same ultimate goal.

Choosing the Right Feedback Option

Let’s take a moment to break down the separate choices for delivering feedback:

  • “Get here by 9 AM” = Directive Feedback
  • “Get here by 9 AM, or you’re fired” = Contingency Feedback
  • “Getting here by 9 AM makes you a very good employee” = Attribution Feedback
  • “Get here by 9 AM, or we can’t start the meeting on time, and everyone gets delayed” = Impact Feedback

The particular direction you take for a particular situation depends on the circumstances. The specific employee can also play a factor. Some workers respond better to one or another of the feedback styles.

Bringing the best out of your workers is part of being a strong manager. This gets easier when you have the best team members. A strong staffing agency, like SmartTalent, can bring you the talent you need to thrive.

Contact SmartTalent today to find out more.


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