Giving a colleague or team member negative feedback can be a pretty nerve-wracking task – even if you were asked for your opinion. You need to decide on the best approach to take and find the right words to describe specific examples and possible impacts clearly and concisely. The situation becomes even more demanding if your feedback meets with resistance, misunderstanding or unexpected reactions.
You can’t prepare down to the last detail, but you can certainly learn a few phrases to introduce your comments. Here are some suggestions.

Picking the right moment

However valuable your feedback, finding the right moment to deliver it is key. Use these phrases to check whether this is a good time before you start.

  • You asked me to look at your report, is now a good moment to talk about it?
  • Have you got a moment? I’d like to talk to you about …
  • Can I have a word about …
  • Are you interested in some feedback on …?
  • Would you like a few pointers on your … ?

Mentioning the positives

You can use phrases such as the following to introduce praise, to talk about strong points and aspects which you feel the recipient handled well.

  • I thought … was very effective.
  • In general, I think your presentation went very well.
  • I really like the way you …
  • I can see you’ve put a lot of work into …
  • What I liked most about …

Describing negative points you observed

To avoid sounding reproachful, accusatory or even aggressive use neutral language and describe what you observed as specifically as possible.

  • When you presented last month’s figures, I noticed that …
  • At several points during the presentation, I saw that you …
  • When I read your report I didn’t quite understand …
  • I saw that …
  • I recognised that …

Explaining the (possible) impact

You can use the following phrases to explain what effect the behaviour mentioned had on you or what effect you fear it may have had or will have on others.

  • This meant that I …
  • For me this came across as being …
  • This annoyed / surprised / confused me, because …
  • I’m worried that this will lead to /result in …
  • I think there’s a risk that …

Talking about improvements

After you’ve delivered your feedback the question is: Where does it go from here? Here are some phrases that you can use to ask for ideas or make suggestions:

  • Have you got any ideas how could you do this differently in future?
  • How do you suggest improving on this next time?
  • What could you do to … ?
  • How else could you … ?
  • Can you think of any alternatives … ? 
  • Have you considered…?
  • What do you think about…?

 

Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too.