Performance Feedback

by May 3, 2022

Based on our episode “Performance Feedback” with Amber Vanderburg


Performance feedback conversations should start by creating an environment for great performance. So, whenever we work with leaders, the first thing we ask is, “Are we setting our teams up for success and actually creating that environment where we’ve clarified what the expectations are?”

In the midst of that conversation, we also engage in a proactive conversation where at some point in our working relationship, there’s probably going to be some frustration. There might be performance expectations that are not met. So, while our emotions are low now, before it even happens, let’s come up with a plan of action for how we are going to handle that situation whenever it arises.

It’s important to begin the conversation with empathy and be mindful of leading with the heart. Oftentimes, we judge other people by their outcomes and their behaviors while we judge ourselves by our intentions, especially whenever we’re giving feedback. 

  • So you’ve done something really good. It’s going to be really important if you are addressing corrective feedback. We’re going to go two layers deep, so we’re going to address the specific behavior. What was that attitude, action, or behavior that was not desired that did not meet those expectations? Then consider why. Why are they behaving that way?
  • Then we go a second layer deep, and in this situation, it’s going to be really important that we’re asking questions. We’re not the only ones talking in this conversation, but we’re going to come up with an alternative attitude, action, or behavior so we’ve identified what didn’t work. 
  • Let’s come up with a plan of action, and then we’re going to also identify why. So, what would be the alternative impact of that alternative action? And so we’re just using this simple what-why model.

We need to begin with empathy. And that is a very simple framework that we can use whenever we give encouraging feedback, coaching feedback, or corrective feedback.

  1. Formal feedback– bi-monthly or quarterly is a good pace to be getting that feedback.
  2. Informal feedback– Among gen Z and millennials desiring feedback three times a week.

Look at that bell curve whenever a person receives feedback. There has to be a span of time for a person to receive and digest feedback to come up with a plan of action for change to be seen. As a leader, you need to wait to see what that changes with that alternative action. 


Obstacles if people don’t know how to give feedback

  • Lack of training
  • Not seeking intent first
  • Doesn’t clarify expectations

Before you engage in your performance feedback, take a moment to plan. Sometimes, leaders don’t want to have these tough conversations, but oftentimes it’s because we build up all this nerve and then we sit in the conversation and then we see them looking at us and then we back off.


  • What is the purpose of my feedback? 

Is it to encourage desired behavior at the end? 

  • Be prepared 

Address the conversation and open the conversation with empathy.

  • Plan

Propose action steps.

  •  Ask questions

To reach an alternative action.

Often, in organizational change, you must first sell the existence of a problem before you can sell someone on a change. So, that’s part of the impact. That is, this helps you see that there’s a problem, and so then you feel encouraged to find something new to behave in.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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