Providing constructive feedback is a critical aspect of effective leadership.

However, many managers shy away from giving difficult feedback due to various fears and assumptions. This can be detrimental to both the team and the organization’s overall growth. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind the fear of giving feedback and provide practical strategies to help managers overcome this challenge.

Businessman leadership speaking to employee.

Understanding the Impact of a Lack of Feedback

A lack of constructive feedback can have negative consequences for your team. Without proper guidance and mentorship, employees are deprived of valuable growth opportunities. Moreover, workplaces with poor communication and unclear expectations are breeding grounds for low trust and disengagement. As a manager, it is essential to recognize the significance of giving feedback in fostering a productive and thriving work environment.

The absence of feedback can lead to uncertainty and confusion among team members. Employees without a clear understanding of their performance may develop insecurities, inhibiting their confidence and reducing their overall productivity. They may begin to question their competency and value within the organization, leading to a decrease in morale.

Furthermore, without feedback, employees miss out on vital learning opportunities that can guide their development and improve their skills. A lack of feedback essentially leaves employees in the dark about their progress, impeding their personal growth and the overall evolution of the team.

Feedback also plays a critical role in building trust and cohesion within a team. When managers withhold feedback, it can create a disconnect between them and their team members, leading to decreased trust and stifled collaboration. A lack of feedback can create an environment where assumptions and misunderstandings flourish, leading to potential conflict or discord within the team.

Also, consider the fact that employees who don’t receive regular feedback may feel undervalued or overlooked, leading to decreased job satisfaction and, ultimately, higher employee turnover.

On the other hand, consistent and constructive feedback can foster an environment of continuous improvement and learning. Feedback acts as a beacon, guiding employees towards achieving their potential and aligning their efforts with the team’s objectives. It enhances transparency and mutual understanding within the team, which, in turn, strengthens interpersonal relationships and promotes a more harmonious work environment.

Thus, the impact of a lack of feedback is significant and far-reaching, underscoring the importance of open and honest communication in maintaining a healthy and thriving workplace.

Female employee walking into office for a meeting.

Challenge Binary Thinking

Managers often avoid giving feedback because they believe certain assumptions, such as “no one likes a micromanager” or “bringing up this issue will ruin our working relationship.” It is important to challenge such binary thinking and recognize that feedback is not about micromanaging but rather about providing guidance and support for individual and team growth.
Binary thinking—viewing situations, people, or concepts in black-and-white, all-or-nothing terms—can hinder the effectiveness of feedback and overall team dynamics. The fear of becoming a micromanager or damaging relationships may stem from this oversimplified perspective.

However, these assumptions can be harmful as they prevent managers from delivering the necessary feedback to help their team members grow. The key is understanding that feedback is crucial for facilitating communication and creating a productive environment. It’s not about stringent control or constant scrutiny but about offering valuable insights to promote individual and collective development.

Moreover, falling into binary thinking can create an artificial divide, seeing feedback as either wholly negative or positive. The reality is much more nuanced. Constructive criticism isn’t a personal attack; rather, it’s a way to help employees identify their areas of improvement and work towards their goals more effectively.

Similarly, positive feedback isn’t just about empty praise but should reinforce the desired behaviors and achievements. Feedback should always serve the purpose of enhancement, be it reinforcing good practices or addressing areas of concern, rather than being seen as a mechanism of control or judgment.

Challenging binary thinking involves fostering a culture of openness and vulnerability. Managers need to create a safe environment where employees feel comfortable receiving feedback and are open to discussions about their performance. This requires a shift from a binary perspective to growth and development, where feedback is seen as an opportunity to learn, evolve, and improve.

Instead of allowing binary thinking to frame feedback as a threat, managers should see it as essential in building a more robust, dynamic, and productive team.

A multiracial group of three people having a meeting.

Seeing Feedback as a Tool

Feedback is not just a method of communication but a valuable tool for growth and development. Employees thrive when they clearly understand their performance and crave feedback that can help them improve and succeed in their roles. Research has repeatedly shown that employees appreciate managers who are able to offer meaningful critique and guidance. The ability to provide constructive feedback is an essential leadership skill that enhances employee satisfaction and engagement, thereby contributing to an overall productive work environment.

Unfortunately, a common discrepancy exists between employees’ importance on feedback and their perception of their managers’ competence in providing it. This gap often results from managers’ reluctance to deliver feedback due to fear of negative reactions or causing discomfort. To bridge this disconnect, it is crucial for managers to recognize the positive influence that honest, constructive feedback can have on their team. By doing so, they can work towards alleviating their apprehensions and prioritizing regular feedback sessions.

Seeing feedback as a tool requires a shift in perspective. Managers must move past their fears and understand the pivotal role feedback plays in their team’s success. Feedback should be viewed as a catalyst for personal and professional growth, a key to unlocking potential, and a means to foster a culture of transparency and continuous improvement. Ultimately, the quality of feedback delivered by managers directly impacts the effectiveness of their team. By embracing feedback as an invaluable tool for development, managers can greatly enhance their leadership skills and foster a more engaged and high-performing team.

Lack of feedback can significantly decrease employee engagement, productivity, and trust. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. The lack of regular and constructive feedback is a major factor contributing to this low figure. Research has shown that when employees receive little to no feedback, engagement drops to a meager 4%. However, engagement increases significantly when employees receive regular feedback – up to six times more, according to the same study.

Similarly, productivity is also impacted by a lack of feedback. A survey by ClearCompany revealed that 105% of high-growth organizations agree that regular feedback is crucial to driving individual performance and organizational success. However, they found that 75% of employees felt they could be more productive if they knew what they were doing right or wrong, highlighting a massive gap in feedback delivery.

Trust, a cornerstone of any successful team, is also severely affected by a lack of feedback. A study by Interact Studio found that 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees and as a result, avoid giving feedback altogether. This absence of communication can lead to a lack of trust within a team. According to a Harvard Business Review study, teams with high trust have a 76% engagement rate, which dramatically drops in low-trust environments.

These statistics clearly illustrate that feedback, or the lack thereof, significantly impacts employee engagement, productivity, and trust within a team. Therefore, regular, constructive feedback should be a priority for any organization aiming to maintain a high-performing and engaged workforce.

Starting Strong

The way you initiate a feedback conversation sets the tone for what follows. Planning your opening remarks can provide you with a sense of control and boost your confidence. Be respectful, empathetic, and clear about your intentions. Starting the conversation in a positive and constructive manner will create an environment that encourages open dialogue and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Learn more about how to have these conversations with my book A Roadmap to Difficult Conversations.

Make Feedback Part of the Process

Feedback should not be seen as a sporadic event but rather as a regular ritual. By making feedback a habitual practice, managers can prevent minor issues from escalating into major conflicts. Regularly providing feedback, even in lower-stakes situations, helps you build confidence and develop your skills as a feedback-giver. The more you practice, the better you will become at delivering difficult feedback with ease and effectiveness.

Coffee shop manager and employee smiling.


As a manager, overcoming the fear of giving difficult feedback is essential for your team’s growth and the overall success of your organization. By understanding the impact of a lack of feedback, challenging binary thinking, and seeing feedback as a tool for development, you can become a more confident and effective feedback-giver. Anticipating eventualities, starting strong, and making feedback a regular part of your managerial process will help you navigate challenging feedback conversations with empathy and improve your team’s performance.

Remember, giving feedback is a sign of great leadership. Embrace the challenge and empower your team to reach their full potential.