When giving feedback, there are many pitfalls one can unknowingly step into. Later, one may regret that the feedback was not accepted or was misunderstood. If you’ve faced this, you might wonder why the feedback wasn’t received as intended. Most of us learn how to give feedback in school or later during our first job. You will probably recognize some of the mistakes when giving feedback, since you have gotten such feedback yourself or have given it to somebody in the past.

To address this, we highlight the 7 typical mistakes made when giving feedback that can be easily avoided. Consequently, giving feedback becomes more effective.


7 Typical Mistakes When Giving Feedback


1. Sandwich Feedback

This feedback type wraps a negative comment in praise. Like a sandwhich. The feedback conversation begins with positive remarks, then transitions to constructive criticism, and finally concludes with words of appreciation. The positive intention might be that it’s easier for the recipient to accept criticism if they also hear something positive. However, those who often receive such feedback face with the following drawback:

1. Predictability: After a while, we get used to the pattern and anticipate what’s coming. As a result,  when we hear a positive comment, we brace ourselves for the impending negativity, which can result in us feeling anxious or defensive.

2. Dilution of the message: The positive feedback wrapped around the negative comments can make the recipient feel unsure about the main message or the seriousness of the issue. In this case, the positive comments dilute or overschadow the negative feedback.

3. Lack of authenticity: If you use the sandwhich feedback method, you migh come across as insincere since the positive feedback is given as a cushion for the negative. The recipient might internally shrug of the feedback given and not take it seriously.

4. Reinforcement of negative associations: Consistently pairing something positive with something negative can lead to the recipient associating any form of praise with upcoming criticism. This diminisches the impact of genuine compliments.


2. Feeling like you must give feedback

If you feel like you absolutely have to give feedback, you should pause, take a deep breath, and wait. Typically, if you sense some underlying tension, it’s best to address that first before giving feedback. Otherwise, your feedback might not land well, potentially causing more harm than good. Always check in with your inner self and the other person to see if it’s a good time for feedback.

It is not a good Idea to give feedback when you feel complelled by inner tension or a sense of obligation. Here’s why:

1. Emotional bias: Your judgments might be clouded by your emotion. This can leed to you giving feedback that is not objective (if anything can be objektive, but that’s a whole different discussion) or fair to the recipient.

2. Miscommunication: When emotionally compromised, the words you chose and the tone of your voice might not convey the intendet message. This can lead to misunderstandings.

3. Escalation: The conversation might become confronational, which can escalate the situation. Not a good turn of events if your goal is to resolve something or give positive feedback.

4. Timing: Even if your feedback is valid and constructive, it might not be the right time to give it. Ask yourself if this is a good time for feedback.


3. No appreciative attitude when giving feedback

Think of feedback as a gift.

For it to be genuine, there shouldn’t be any lingering issues between you two. So, always make sure to address any existing conflicts before diving into feedback.


4. I feel like… You are…

One of the the mistakes when giving feeback is saying “I feel like… you are…”. Using “feel” ties it to a personal perception, like labeling someone’s identity. People can’t really dispute how you feel. So, when they hear feedback framed this way, they might get defensive or shut down. Either way, it leaves a mark.

If you describe the situation as objectivly as possible it separates personal feelings from the observation, allowing the person to address the feedback without feeling personally attacked. So in order to give correct feedback, describe the situation or behavior and the physiological effect it had on you. Imagine if a doctor asked you what you felt on a physical level, for example a slight pain in your stomach, tension in your neck or shoudlers, an elevated heart rate, etc. And in order to facilitate a future change, you state a wish for the future: ” I wish that for the future, you would do (specific behavior) ( or consider a learning taslk or requirement for the future with potential consequences for non-compliance.


5. No specific behavior

As stated above, it’s essential to describe the person’s behavior accurately and as objectively as possible (the way you perceive it). If someone expresses an interpretation instead of a perception, it usually comes across as an accusation, and the recipient will become defensive. The feedback won’t be received, and a conflict or escalation can be the result.


6. Desire refers to the past

When feedback focuses on past actions, it often leaves the recipient feeling regretful since they can’t alter what’s already done. So, it’s more constructive to frame feedback with a forward-looking perspective, focusing on future improvements.

Past-focused feedback:
“Last month, you missed several deadlines, and it disrupted the team’s workflow.”

Future-focused feedback:
“Moving forward, can we work on strategies to ensure deadlines are met? It’ll help keep the team’s workflow smooth and avoid conflict.”


7. Demand is Formulated as a Wish

It’s important to distinguish between a wish and a demand when setting expectations. While a wish leaves room for choice, a demand comes with consequences if not met. When offering feedback, you might not explicitly say “demand,” but the person receiving the feedback should understand any potential repercussions.

Wish-based Feedback:
“I wish you’d consider joining our team meetings more often. Your insights would be valuable.”

In this scenario, the person is expressing a desire but leaving it up to the recipient to decide. There’s no explicit consequence mentioned for not attending the meetings.

Demand-based Feedback:
“We need you to attend all team meetings from now on. Missing them will impact your performance review.”

Here, the feedback is clear that attendance is not just a preference but a requirement, and there are consequences (affecting the performance review) for non-compliance.

This is an overview of the mistakes when giving feedback we encounter the most in our coachings with clients.