If you’re in the position of having to give feedback in the workplace, commending good performance and behaviour can be as simple as saying ‘well done’ or ‘good job’.

But if the feedback you have to give is negative, it’s not quite so simple. And if you don’t do it effectively or put it off altogether, it can lead to hurt feelings and even poorer performance.

To prevent this from happening, many managers and team leaders use a feedback model called the AID model (action, impact and desired outcome) for giving effective feedback. Here’s what you should know about it and how it can be used:

Action

This is the specific action that has made giving feedback necessary. Your aim is to emphasise the other person’s actions or behaviour, not interpret them.

Prepare for the conversation before it happens so that you’re fully aware of what you want to say. Try to stick to talking about what you have seen or heard rather than making assumptions about the other person’s intentions, personality or character.

In other words concentrate on what the other person did or how they behaved – your feedback should be about what happened rather than the individual. Be clear, precise and as specific as possible, and use examples if you can (try to avoid general comments). If you base your comments on fact, it’s also less likely that the other person will feel they can challenge you.

One way to avoid sounding accusatory – which can often make people defensive – is to use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements. For example, ‘I feel you may be getting behind with your work’, sounds less blaming than ‘you’re not working hard enough’.

Also try to tackle one action at a time; if you give feedback about lots of things on how the other person has behaved in a number of different situations, there’s a good chance they may end up feeling picked on.

Impact

Explain the impact the other person’s action or behaviour has had, and what outcomes it has caused. Think about how their behaviour or how what they’ve done (or haven’t done) is affecting you, the rest of the team or co-workers, your clients or the business as a whole. For example: because the other person has done such and such or behaved in such as manner, this has happened. Try to stick to the facts wherever possible rather than speculating.

The impact could also be how the other person’s actions or behaviour has made you or others feel. If the person’s actions and/or behaviour have affected others, try to give specific examples.

Alternatively, you could encourage the other person to work out how what they have done or the way they have behaved has affected you or others themselves. Ask questions such as ‘how do you think this has affected me/your work colleagues?’ or ‘what impact do you think your behaviour might have on the client?’

Desired outcome

Effective feedback should aim to motivate and improve performance. This means it’s not enough to tell the other person what they did wrong and what effect that action or behaviour may have had – you also need to suggest how they can change their actions or behaviour in the future to avoid the same thing happening again.

Try to think about what needs to change. Or ask the other person if they have any ideas about how things could be improved or what they could do differently. This approach, where you ask the other person to consider what has happened rather than telling them what you have observed, could be a more powerful way of helping them to make effective changes.

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