Two Ways to Give Feedback Effectively

Here’s some good news! Giving negative feedback is a skill. Yes, this means that it can be learnt and the skill gets better the more you practise it.  Two effective ways to give negative feedback are PEER and SBI.


PEER is an easy to use, quick and effective way of giving negative feedback.  It is most often used for small or technical mistakes.  The strength of PEER is that it focuses primarily on future behaviour by stating your expectations up-front.

Point out the positives

First point out the positives so that the person knows what he has done well.

“John,  I can see that you have got all your applications processed by the 2pm deadline”

Encourage the employee

Next, encourage the person by showing appreciation.

“I really appreciate that — it shows that you are a fast learner”

Explain your expectations

In this step, point out your expectations about the mistake in question.

“John, when you are sending the completed application, could you ensure that all the required documents for each document are in each application pack.”

Remind the reasons why

Finally, tell the person why you have these expectations.

“This will avoid situations where applications need to be returned to you and it will also help the processing centre to confirm that all the documents”

PEER, because it is directive in nature does not lend itself to a dialogue. In this method, the manager ‘shows’ the subordinate ‘what is wrong’.   While effective in simple situations, more complex situations, such as repeat mistakes, require dialogue.

You can use the PE and ER steps separately depending on situation.  Use PE when you want to give positive feedback only and ER when you want to focus primarily on  negative feedback. Remember however, that PEER is for simple situations or mistakes.  You should use SBI for more complex situations.


SBI is a more thorough process of giving feedback.  It focuses on developing and building up your staff. The process is consultative in nature and involves having a dialogue with your staff. SBI is most commonly used of ‘significant’ mistakes or repeat errors.


Describe the situation during which the behaviour occurred.

For example, “At the meeting when you were asked the question about the root-cause of the problem.”


Describe the behaviour. Be factual and specific.

For example, “You replied to the man that the question was not relevant and that you did not think that this was the right forum for the question…”


Describe the impact from your perspective. Own the perspective and be open, knowing that you could be wrong, or that there could be other ways of seeing the situation.

For example, “I felt that you made the man feel unnecessarily uncomfortable. I thought you appeared arrogant to the rest of the group.”

A quick and easy way to remember the SBI model is to remember the sentence structure

“When you……” +  “I …….   “

For example

“When you said to the customer that the ring casing could not be done, I thought that you missed a chance to explore the customer’s needs further in this area as I did not think you understood what he said.”

Use SBI judiciously because when you use SBI for small ‘errors’, you can be perceived as ‘blowing’ up the issue. Imagine having to be brought into the room for a spelling mistake and you get the idea of what I mean. SBI takes time and some preparation so it involves an investment of time on the manager’s part.

Using the SBI model

The SBI Model is very effective when used right.  The suggested process is as follows:

First choose a convenient & private place and time for both of you. Allow for ample time so that there is no rush. Invite the person to see you at that time.

In the session:

Give the Feedback

  1. Prepare the person:  Tell the person you have some feedback to give him/her that you feel uncomfortable about.  “Paul, thanks for your time.  I have something I would like to discuss with you that I feel uncomfortable about.”
  2. State the SBI:  “Paul, yesterday…when you……. I…..”
  3. Show you want to understand: “Paul, I want to understand why you ….. “

Listen now and try to understand.  Be aware that at this point, the person might try to distract you into deeper problems.  Acknowledge the other problems and tell him/her you want to deal with them but you would like to address what happened.

State your Expectations & Get Commitment

  1. State or reiterate your expectations “Paul, ….”
  2. Ask for commitment: “What will you do to ensure that this does not happen again” / “What will you do to make sure you….”

At this point, the person might try to be very general or try to avoid being specific. In this case, repeat step 2 until you can get something very specific.

Confirm, Support and Next Steps

  1. Repeat his/her commitment: “Great, Paul, so you will….”
  2. Offer support / encouragement & tell him/her you will follow-up: “Paul, you are important to this team…….if you need any help in …………. please let me know.” “Paul, let’s meet up next Tuesday so that you can let me know what happened with…….”

Giving negative feedback is not easy so it does take time to learn.  Start the learning process now and you will find that the skill will be useful in dealing with many difficult situations that will definitely arise when managing people.

Stephen Yong, Principal Consultant for Blue Dot Learning, specializes in Leadership Skills for Junior to Middle Managers. For more information, please go to