The 3 Types of Feedback (and How To Give Criticism Effectively)

Being an effective communicator is one of the hallmarks of any good leader, but knowing how to give feedback to your employees or peers is a skill that, unfortunately, far too many people haven’t cultivated. Once you understand the best ways to offer your feedback, you will find that your team performs better, and your interpersonal relationships with your co-workers will also improve dramatically.

Jaakko Kaikuluoma


In this brief article, we will look at the 3 types of feedback and explain how and when to use each type for the best results.

1. Reinforcing Feedback

All too often, people think of feedback as a negative thing. The truth is that positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in fostering a supportive and effective team environment, which should, in fact, be the goal of any workplace or organization.

When people receive positive feedback about the good work they have been doing, they will be much more likely to continue working hard and will have an increased sense of loyalty towards you and the company, which can only yield good results.

In terms of volume, positive reinforcing feedback is actually the one you should provide the most out of three types of feedback. Not all positive feedback is equally effective though. You can learn more about giving positive feedback in the right way in our previous blog post.

When to give reinforcing feedback: When you want to reward an employee and reinforce their work or behavior so that they will keep it up, or when you just want to show your appreciation.

The effect of reinforcing feedback: The other person will feel recognized, supported, and valuable. They will be likely to work even harder to feel as though they deserve the praise. Whenever somebody does an excellent job, you should remember to give them reinforcing feedback. Your feedback works best when it focuses on an action or behavior. Reinforcing feedback generally starts with something like, "I really liked how you…", or "It was excellent the way you…."

2. Redirecting Feedback

Sometimes you will need to give feedback with the aim of improving performance in the future. Out of the 3 types of feedback, redirecting feedback is your best tool for providing coaching, offering guidance, and giving helpful advice that will allow the other person to take concrete actions so that they can improve their behavior and results in the future. It is also a key element of building or strengthening a culture of performance.

Getting this type of feedback right is a key skill that is important not just in business but also in life. The key to being understood is to focus on communicating three key points:

  1. Name the situation and behavior that you have observed.
  2. What impact that behavior had.
  3. What would you have the other person do next time in the same situation.

For example: “Your update in our last team meeting took more time than we’ve agreed to [observation]. It forced me to rush my update [impact]. Would it be possible for you to pay more attention to the time limit in future? [suggestion]

Feel free to use your own style of communicating, but it’s best to avoid blaming (e.g. “You’re selfish”) or generalizing (e.g.“you always take too much time”) because that will only create social friction and put them on the defensive.

When to give redirecting feedback: Whenever you would like to see an improvement in someone else’s performance or certain behavior, or you are training somebody on how to perform a certain task or job function.

The effect of redirecting feedback: When done correctly, redirecting feedback helps your employees, partner, peers, etc., understand where and how they can improve, and what impact that change could have. Employees will likely work on what they need to improve because they will want to do a great job for you.

3. Evaluating Feedback

Evaluation communicates how one is perceived to perform compared to others or against the expectations. Out of the 3 types of feedback, evaluations are the most valuable for performance management, expectation setting and fair compensation decisions, and less useful in regular person-to-person interactions. Unfortunately, this type of feedback is quite commonly used in situations where the other types of feedback would work better. If not supported by sufficient reinforcing and redirecting feedback, evaluative feedback can promote fixed mindset (instead of growth mindset), feelings of resentment and even contribute towards a toxic work environment.

Now, you may be upset about how a certain employee or colleague has performed with a task, but you must resist the urge to bombard them with evaluating feedback because you can only make things worse by doing so. This is feedback such as "this was bad, you did this poorly, it was all wrong, totally unacceptable. You need to do much better at this or else…." Would you feel valued if someone spoke to you this way? Would you want to work harder for their success? Probably not, and neither will your employee, colleague, or co-worker.

When to give evaluating feedback: In dedicated performance evaluation discussions, where it is clear to each party why someone is being evaluated instead of focusing on their strengths and development.

The effect of evaluating feedback: When used correctly, it helps align expectations and understanding about the person's performance. When used in wrong situations, it can make the other party feel devalued, demotivated, and hurt without helping them understand how to improve.


The way you give feedback says as much about who you are as a person as it does about who you are in business. By understanding these three types of feedback, you will be empowered to become a better, more effective communicator. Remember, if you want people to like you and be inspired to work their hardest for you, then you need to give positive reinforcing feedback, with some redirecting feedback sprinkled in. Save evaluating feedback to carefully selected purposes and moments, and your results will improve in all areas of your work and life.

Want to learn more about feedback? See our Ultimate Feedback Guide!