How to structure feedback to boost staff morale

To create a great workplace culture, advisers should pay as much attention to the way they say things as what they actually say.

Employees sometimes associate feedback with criticism and confrontation. Not surprisingly, experts say that overcoming these pre-conceptions and finding a way forward can contribute greatly to a more productive and happier workplace.

The Action – Impact – Desired outcome approach

Lending a structure to your feedback approach can be highly beneficial, believes executive coach and author of The Tao of Coaching, Max Landsberg. A proponent of the ‘AID approach’, Landsberg recommends the following.

  1. Action – Landsberg advocates listing examples of the positive or negative actions or behaviours you want to discuss. The important thing, he says, is to talk about their actions, not what you think they meant by them. Keep it objective and factual. It’s a great way to set the tone for a productive, non-confrontational discussion.

  2. Impact – As a next step, he recommends managers explain the impact of the action on the team, stakeholders and project outcomes. If you’re giving someone good feedback about a job well done, be precise, he says. So, rather than saying, ‘just wanted to say you did a great job,’ instead say exactly why the job was done well.

  3. Desired outcome – Communicate the results and behavioural changes you want to see, says Landsberg. Remember, you’re giving feedback because you want to help with their performance or motivation. Emphasise what they need to do going forward, rather than what they did wrong. It’s about encouraging enthusiasm. He also recommends asking for their suggestions as this will help encourage buy-in and agreement.

It’s not (necessarily) what you say, it’s how you say it

Leadership coach Maria Smith, CEO and founder of Bounce Australia, says when feedback is used to highlight what is working well, it’s a great way for managers to demonstrate positive leadership and encourage staff engagement.

“The things that really impact the communication will come down to the words used, the tone of voice and body language. It’s all behaviour based,” she says.

Instead of pointing out what someone’s doing wrong, first identify what the person does really well. “That allows their brain to be engaged and flourish, so they’re more likely to feel they’re being provided with great insight rather than being criticised,” Smith says.

Accentuating the positive is a way to promote a growth mindset that helps create an environment primed for higher performance, productivity and profit, she says.


Frequency of feedback is another tool to assist in making the entire process more comfortable for everyone. Smith says it doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down affair.

“Feedback can be done easily, like a walk around the block or a quick coffee.  When it becomes part of the workplace routine, it won’t seem so difficult. So when you invite employees to have a chat, they’ll be less likely to think, ‘Oh no, I’m going to lose my job,’ and more likely to see it as a positive and constructive element of personal improvement.”