How to Deliver And Accept Constructive Feedback at Work

How to Deliver And Accept Constructive Feedback at Work

Let’s talk about the legendary Feedback Sandwich - a great tool used time and time again by those who want to provide constructive criticism to peers or employees without neglecting the positive aspects of their work. The method of “sandwiching” criticism between two compliments respectfully suggests a change in behavior or considerations for the future. 

This feedback model is so popular because it works for almost all circumstances, yet it is lacking in action steps and support. It also doesn’t allow for much conversation between parties.

With professional development becoming more of a want and need for employees, nailing your feedback method is critical.

For leaders, learning to provide feedback well can be critical to whether or not employees stay with the organization. Similarly, receiving and providing quality feedback can influence whether a leader grows or becomes stagnant in their position. For those who want to excel and build better relationships at work, providing feedback more effectively can make a huge difference in work satisfaction

Why Feedback Is Crucial For Professionals

Consistent feedback is crucial at work for a plethora of reasons. Not only does it help us grow in our career and develop professionally, but it also furthers a learning culture at work which allows employees and managers to feel comfortable learning, growing, asking questions, collaborating, and innovating.

Giving and accepting feedback also builds a more cohesive team where everyone stays on the same page.

A more cohesive team allows for better team bonding, which creates meaningful relationships between colleagues. A supportive team is more collaborative and trustworthy, which makes for a safe and productive workplace.

By asking for and receiving feedback, employees can pinpoint what they can work on as well as what they excel at. This way they can work on underdeveloped skills while being confident in their talents.

Feedback also gets teams engaged and motivated to make changes to their processes for better outcomes.

Imposter syndrome thrives off of “what ifs” and a lack of concrete answers, so accepting and asking for feedback can help team members thrive in their roles and feel confident in their decisions.

Effective Feedback Models

If the feedback sandwich or other methods of delivering feedback no longer serve you, don’t fret - the following models can help you expertly deliver feedback. Tens of different feedback models exist, but these five are great options if you want to enhance specific areas of your feedback methods, whether that be better communication and collaboration, clear consequences, or a better balance of positive and negative feedback.


The Identify-Describe-Encourage-Action (IDEA) feedback model encourages change in behavior with clear guidelines of how an employee can do so. First, identify and describe the issue you want to tackle, then thoroughly describe the situation and why it is important to address. Then encourage your colleague by letting them know you support them and their development. Close out the feedback by clearly describing the action they should take to make the progress discussed.

2. Pendleton

Created by David Pendleton in 1984, this feedback model was intended for doctor-patient communication yet applies widely to business and beyond. The Pendleton model encourages a flow of feedback between both parties through seven steps.

  1. Make certain that the colleague is open to and prepared to receive feedback
  2. Ask how the colleague felt about the situation or behavior you want to discuss
  3. Discover what went well
  4. Ask what could have gone better or what could be improved
  5. Express what you believe could be improved
  6. Formulate the next steps to ensure that the solutions discussed will be implemented

This model is helpful for folks who might struggle with confrontation or who want to build deeper trust and greater collaboration between managers and employees.


The Context-Examples-Diagnosis-Actions-Review (CEDAR) feedback model ensures both parties are aligned and on the same page. This can be helpful for colleagues who tend to miscommunicate or lose some action items while communicating.

First, give your colleague context for why you want to have this discussion before providing examples of behavior you have witnessed. After a thorough explanation of the situation, ask your colleague to diagnose the situation, meaning describe why they behaved the way they did and their reasoning that might not align with your assumptions of the situation. Then suggest action or ask your colleague to come up with a solution. Once action steps are clearly defined, review what was discussed so that you are both on the same page.


For leaders who want to provide a better balance of positive and negative feedback, this model is perfect as it aims to “boost” behavior that is not entirely positive and congratulate positive behavior.

Give a balance of positive and “negative feedback,” which should be objective, focusing on actions rather than bias or personality. Include what you have simply observed yourself rather than heard from colleagues. Be specific in stating what you have observed by being straightforward and clear. It is important to provide this feedback in a timely manner - provide it shortly after you observe the behavior rather than waiting to bring it to the surface after weeks or months.

5. Feedforward

The feedforward model is preventative and future-focused. This model might be great for organizations that run efficiently and want to stay on top of things or for teams with recruits who are still learning processes. When using the feedforward model, pinpoint a certain task or behavior and ask your colleague (or entire team) to take preventative measures to eliminate any possible negative consequences. This might look like asking colleagues to double-check their work, follow guidelines, or keep a close eye on something that might cause an issue. When relaying this kind of feedback, be sure to mention only the future, be supportive, and focus on improvements rather than blame or judgment.

Guidelines for Delivering Helpful Feedback to Employees

If you need a reason to start prioritizing feedback in your communication with employees, the fact of the matter is employees who receive recognition from management are 69% more likely to do better work. Feedback is so much more instrumental in employees’ work than we often realize, so prioritizing it is not a waste of time but rather an employee experience investment. Here are some tips for providing quality feedback to employees:

  • Make sure it is digestible. If it is in person, do not overwhelm employees with too many critiques or a long list of action items. Instead, discuss a few key behaviors or situations then schedule a follow-up to tie up any loose ends or continue the conversation. After all, managers who give the right amount of feedback are the highest rated by employees.
  • Make an effort to provide feedback when people succeed. We tend to view feedback or constructive criticism as negative and therefore we can dread or resist it. Making a conscious effort to give positive feedback when you recognize great behavior affirms employees and motivates them to continue their efforts.
  • Confirm that your feedback will be received in the moment. Some employees can have a lot on their plate when feedback sessions come around. Ensure that it is the right time for a discussion by asking employees how they are doing and if they have the capacity for feedback.
  • Create an employee recognition program. Ensure your employees get the recognition they deserve by putting an employee recognition program in place. Doing so can positively impact employee experience, employee relationships, engagement, organizational culture, and organizational values.
  • Be specific. Don’t risk wasting time by not providing examples or clearly defined behavior. Generalizing situations and discussing behavior in a broad sense is not helpful for professionals. Instead, come prepared to speak clearly and specifically.
  • Use appropriate language and tone. Delivering feedback can be challenging as leaders often do not want to upset employees or be perceived as mean or disrespectful. Therefore, checking that you are using professional but personable language and a warm tone can make all the difference when delivering feedback. The discussion should feel more like a casual conversation rather than a lecture.
  • Integrate employee feedback programs into daily interactions. Make sure employees feel heard and understood by creating surveys or feedback boxes and making time for feedback during meetings.

Employees to Higher Ups

To create trusting and respectful relationships between employees and managers, employees must share feedback with higher-ups. By doing so, managers can improve their processes and employees can ensure that their needs are being met while feeling fulfilled and supported in their role.

Employees should enter feedback sessions with a foundation of respect and with the idea that the feedback should be delivered in a conversation rather than rattling off complaints. Employees should ask questions rather than demand change in behavior so that all parties can come to an understanding.

37% of employees say they’ve quit their jobs over feedback not getting taken seriously. If employees feel that their concerns are being disregarded, it is important to express these concerns and clearly explain how important their concerns are and how imperative they are to how they do their job.

Employees can schedule meetings with managers to provide feedback or engage in a discussion following a project or meeting. 

Asking for specific feedback from managers can also be difficult to articulate the first time around. A place to start is asking managers for advice and guidance on how to reach goals you have created for yourself or goals instilled by leadership that you have been striving to reach.

How to Receive Feedback

Hearing feedback is easy enough, yet receiving and applying it can be difficult for employees. Pointing out behavior that could be improved can feel embarrassing, frustrating or personal. Here are some tips to help you fully receive and apply feedback for your professional development: 

  • Have faith that your colleagues have your best interest in mind. Building and relying on trust between coworkers is imperative to successfully receiving feedback. If you do not have reciprocated respect between parties, feedback is difficult to accept and the motivation to grow dwindles. If you do not have a strong foundation with the person who is giving/receiving feedback, be sure to communicate your support and respect before relaying feedback for the best results.
  • Adopt a growth mindset if you haven’t. Finding satisfaction at work is indicative of your willingness to learn and grow. Accepting feedback is a key component to professional development and it keeps us motivated to continue learning. If you haven’t adopted a growth mindset, it’s important to do so that you can fully embrace feedback and use it as a tool in your career.
  • Take time to process compliments. Positive feedback is what propels us forward and affirms our unique talents. Just as we put pressure on ourselves to apply “negative” feedback, we must celebrate the positives to keep us motivated and confident in our abilities.
  • Ask questions, even if it feels uncomfortable. You won’t receive the specific feedback you are looking for if you don’t ask for it. To discover how you can improve or how you are performing, asking questions will get you there.
  • Define specific goals. Tying clear goals to feedback makes the end goal more achievable and your progress and efforts can be tracked. Reaching goals via specified steps also allows you to celebrate your achievements and recognize your growth (while also allowing managers to recognize your successes).
  • Avoid defensiveness. It is okay to disagree with feedback yet to learn from feedback and find it useful, it is important to find common ground. Focus on the goals you agree with and dedicate your energy to tackling the related action items.
  • Summarize feedback. As the discussion wraps up, repeat the key points to ensure all parties are on the same page.
  • Schedule follow-ups. After receiving important feedback, it can be helpful to follow up with the person who provided it after working toward achieving the related goal. In this conversation, you can discuss progress and tie up any loose ends.


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