How to Give Your Employees the Gift of Feedback—With GRIT

Giving feedback with GRIT—using generosity, respect, integrity, and truth—makes a huge difference to your team, and it costs you nothing except a little time.

If we know as managers that feedback and recognition are essential to helping people stay on track, why is it that we avoid saying something that potentially could help someone, and improve a situation? When you think of feedback as helping, maybe you’ll be more eager to give it. In this sense, feedback is a gift.

Whether to keep people on track, inspire them, or help them improve, appropriate feedback is the key to growth, and it comes in two forms. Positive feedback is a way to share information to reinforce what a person is doing. Constructive feedback is a way to offer suggestions about something that needs to change.

For managers, giving feedback makes a huge difference to your team—and it costs you nothing except a little time. Not only will improvements happen faster, but your own stress level and workload will decrease. Unfortunately, most managers don’t give enough feedback. A 2012 Harris poll (Colan, 2012) reports around 65 percent of workers were receiving no recognition for good work.

Here is what I’ve heard firsthand about why managers avoid giving positive feedback:

  • It’s my team’s job. Why should I have to tell them what they’re doing right?
  • It sounds cliché.
  • Employees will expect a raise if I tell them too many good things.
  • I don’t need to hear positive feedback. Why should my team?

Constructive feedback also often is avoided, and these are the top reasons I’ve heard from managers:

  • I don’t know how to say it in a way that will come across helpful.
  • I feel uncomfortable—I don’t like confrontation.
  • I hope it will take care of itself.
  • I don’t have time to deal with it.

If you keep in mind that you are helping someone, you’ll be more eager to give feedback and the way you say it will improve. Remember that 93 percent of a message someone receives is from nonverbal communication. Even when you strive to find the right words, your frustration and anger are coming through loud and clear. By the way, this typically happens because you’ve waited way too long to say something. This is why your intent to help makes all the difference.

Giving feedback is easy with GRIT®, using generosity, respect, integrity, and truth. You always should start with truth, which leads to generosity:

Truth—When giving positive feedback, be mindful of what people are doing; look for the positive things.

When giving constructive feedback, be mindful of what the truth is and what it is not. Understand the facts of the situation, and don’t assume secondhand information is true. Strive to find the truth of the situation first.

Integrity—When giving positive feedback, be specific. Include the details of what they did that is right. Be timely; let them know when you see it.

When giving constructive feedback, say it directly and to the point, and keep it focused on the issue, not the person. Choose your battles; not every issue needs attention.

Respect—When giving positive feedback, let them know the value of what they did and how it affected the team or the customer or the company. Be mindful of communication styles. Only give feedback in public if there is a higher benefit and it won’t embarrass the person.

When giving constructive feedback, say it with a helpful intent and with consideration of the person’s communication style. Keep it private. Realize that you may not have the whole truth. Ask questions if you need to. Let them know the impact, what it is causing. Pause and give the person an opportunity to share information.

Generosity—When giving positive feedback, give plenty of it. Not too much so it becomes meaningless, but enough so it helps a person stay on track. Positive recognition can help build a person’s confidence, as well as increase his or her level of trust and respect for you.

When giving constructive feedback, help the person with a solution or training, or give encouragement that he or she can make a change.

While there are many formal opportunities to give feedback, such as at the end of a project and in annual performance appraisals, don’t wait. You’re missing opportunities to course correct and decrease stress faster. And when you get a negative reaction to the feedback, respect where that person might be, and don’t let it throw you off track. Remain on course with the message, while staying open and being helpful.

Leading with GRIT® sets the stage for giving and receiving feedback. Sharing information with people to help them stay on track is not only a gift but also our responsibility as leaders. Remember the law of giving and receiving: Give people the gift of feedback, and you’ll receive many benefits, in ways you won’t expect.

Laurie Sudbrink is president and founder of Unlimited Coaching Solutions, which specializes in improving workplace performance. She is the author of “Leading With GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth” (Wiley). Sudbrink is a certified New York State trainer, an approved United States Navy trainer, and is certified in the Four Agreements. She has more than 20 years of corporate experience in human relations, management, sales, marketing, and training, and is a magna cum laude graduate in Communications from SUNY Cortland. For more information, visit