Imagine you’re driving with your eyes closed. That’s what it’s like to work without feedback. You’ve no idea if you’re on the right track, or heading for disaster.

There are many types of feedback within the workplace. And as a manager, it’s your role to use them to help your team find their way to success. This post helps you understand all the different types of feedback and how to use them to support your team.

What makes great feedback?

Before we start looking at all the different types of feedback, let’s look at what makes for great feedback.

Great feedback is:

  • Delivered with the right mindset: a positive intent to help the person
  • Based on facts and observable behavior (not hearsay or gossip)
  • Is structured, to make it easier to understand and accept
  • Makes it clear what behavior is expected in future
  • Opens up a dialogue, to get buy-in

For more, take a look at our effective feedback examples.

5 types of feedback

Here are the 5 main types of feedback that you need to master as a manager.

1. Unconscious feedback

One type of feedback that is always missed of these lists is unconscious feedback. This is all the feedback that you give to our team without being consciously aware of it.

This unconscious feedback comes in many different forms:

  • A wry smile, or a slight frown
  • A sharp tone in a discussion
  • Choosing not to answer an email (not answering is also saying something!)
  • Interrupting, or choosing not to interrupt
  • Giving more time and attention to one team member, compared to others

As a manager, you play an important role in the lives of your team members. It’s important to remember that they are constantly evaluating their working relationship with you based on all the feedback you provide, including this unconscious feedback.

The challenge is to reserve a little mental bandwidth, to self-monitor. Also, take the time to seek feedback from your coworkers to better understand your own performance.

A note on ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ feedback

Many sources refer to ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ feedback as the two main types of feedback. The idea is that ‘positive’ feedback is feedback on what has gone well, and negative feedback is about what has gone wrong.

We think these labels are misleading, because all feedback should be ‘positive’ (in that there is a positive intent, and the goal is to improve performance in the future, which is positive!).

It’s better to talk about ‘reinforcing’ feedback, when you want to reinforce behaviors and ensure that they continue, and ‘redirecting’ feedback, when you want to redirect your team member’s behavior to be more productive.

2. Reinforcing and redirecting feedback

So, here we are, this is our way of thinking about ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ feedback. The goal is to reinforce behaviors and redirect behaviors, through our feedback (we’re not the only people to prefer this language of reinforcing and redirecting!). This is the bulk of the feedback that takes place within the workplace and is aimed at keeping your team members on track, or getting them back on track, towards achieving their goals.

An example of reinforcing feedback:

Tracy, the way you answered questions in that meeting was great. Your answers were short and sharp, and you always connected your answers back to the key message of the presentation. This really gave the client confidence and kept the meeting on track, keep it up in future!

An example of redirecting feedback:

Mahesh, there have been a couple of times recently where you’ve interrupted your team members in team meetings, cutting them off. I’m concerned that this may effect your reputation in the team. I’d prefer you wait until people have stopped talking before you make your point. What are your thoughts on this?

Whether it’s reinforcing feedback or redirecting feedback, these two types of feedback don’t have to take long. Short is best.

And as you can see from the example, with redirecting feedback it’s particularly important to open the conversation with a question to encourage dialogue. This helps you to understand whether your team member accepts the feedback or not.

3. Coaching feedback

Coaching feedback takes place within a coaching conversation. The purpose is to hold a mirror up to the team member that you’re coaching.

An example of coaching feedback:

You say that you’re enthusiastic about this option, but your tone and body language are saying something else. Is there something here that’s not yet said?

This type of question provides a gentle challenge to your team member and encourages them to dig a little deeper.

4. Performance review feedback

Reinforcing, redirecting, coaching, these are the types of feedback that you should be using as part of your day-to-day to support your team.

Performance review feedback is an important part of your cycle of performance management. Whether you have a more flexible, FAST approach to performance management, or you’re preparing for an annual performance review, your feedback is an integral part of performance management.

This type of feedback is more focused on your team members’ performance in relation to the goals that have been set, and includes the extent to which they’ve achieved their KPIs and how this will impact their salary increment and bonus.

Here are examples of feedback phrases in performance reviews.

5. Upward feedback

To really see the benefit of feedback, aim to build a feedback culture. To do this, be open to upwards feedback from your team. Seek out their feedback and role-model the skills of receiving feedback and acting on it.

In this way, you’ll be demonstrating to your team the skills that you want them to embrace! Nothing is more powerful.

5 types of feedback in summary

Mastering these 5 types of feedback is core to your role as a manager:

  1. Unconscious feedback
  2. Reinforcing and redirecting
  3. Coaching feedback
  4. Performance review feedback
  5. Upward feedback

Do it, and you’ll be taking a massive step towards enhancing the performance of your team!

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