Give feedback that's useful and doesn't suck

Giving feedback to someone can feel very uncomfortable. It's especially difficult when it’s about a behaviour you're consistently seeing from them which needs to change. Below is some guidance on how to structure feedback in – it’s called the B.R.O.F.F. model.

  • Behaviour - a specific, recent example of a behaviour you've witnessed that needs to change.
  • Reasons - the person getting the feedback is given an opportunity to explain their behaviour.
  • Outcome - you state the impact the behaviour is having on you, the team and/or the business.
  • Feelings - ask the person how they feel about this feedback, and explore emotional reactions.
  • Future - clearly state specifics of what ideal future behaviour needs to look like and seek buy-in.

Ideally meet with the person 1:1 in a private room where you will not be disturbed and structure the conversation in the order shown below.


Describe the specific situation where the person’s behaviour was not as expected and created an outcome that you do not want repeated in future.

The event should have ideally been recent, so that the person can clearly recall it themselves.

Describe when the event happened and who was there.

The person giving the feedback should have been directly present during the event to witness it themselves. If you are feeding back on what others have reported as bad behaviour then you risk the individual stating that the feedback is inaccurate and does not reflect what really happened. If you saw the event then they cannot dispute your interpretation of the events as you experienced them.

You should also be as specific about what they said, how they said it and what they did (body language) if that forms part of the behaviour that needs to change.


Person giving feedback;

“On Tuesday during our weekly team meeting I saw that you arrived 20 minutes after the meeting started. You’ve arrived late for the past 3 team meetings over the past few weeks, so I’m keen to meet you today, so I can understand this behaviour and how we can address it going forward, so that it no longer continues.


Then give the person receiving the feedback an opportunity to give reasons for the behaviour. It can be easy to make assumptions about why someone has behaved poorly. However, there may be perfectly valid reasons for explaining the behaviour that you were not aware of, so it’s important to give an opportunity for this to be shared at this stage in the conversation.

It’s important you ask the question:

a)      with genuine positive intent, and

b)      without judgement, and

c)       with curiosity too.

If you've already decided why they have behaved how they have and judged them accordingly before you’ve even asked the question then that will shine through in the tone you use when asking the questions and in your body language.

Take a moment to consider how you want the question to land with the individual. If they feel judged when asked the question then they will respond accordingly – in a defensive manner and close up. The conversation will quickly either close down or blow up and you don’t want either.

You’re aiming for a constructive conversation between two adults. Stay calm, curious, and don’t judge until you’ve heard all the facts. 

When they do give their reasons. Seek to understand what the underlying causes are for their behaviour. Is it:

·         External circumstances – is there something about their work situation that needs change?

·         Lack of self-awareness – simply highlighting the behaviour might make them aware of    something they didn’t realise they were saying or doing. This increased awareness may be all that is required to make them realise they need to change something and promptly do it.

·         Behavioural habits – they may already be aware of this behaviour pattern and say they’ve struggled with correcting it historically. It therefore might be then appropriate to explore ways that they can address it (further training, mentoring, coaching, informal feedback in future similar situations)

·         Mind-set/Internal thoughts – sometimes people can have their inner critic or limiting beliefs strongly influencing how they feel in certain situations and consequently how they then behave in them. Again if this is the case it might be useful to explore ways they could address their inner critic or challenge their limiting beliefs (further training, mentoring, coaching, informal feedback in future similar situations). If the behaviour may be linked to any mental health issues then referring the person to a counselling or well-being specialist may also be appropriate.


Person giving feedback;

"I’m keen to understand the underlying reasons behind you arriving late 3 times in a row. What’s causing this?”


Here’s the point where you discuss the consequences/outcomes of the person’s current behaviour. You cover how its impacting you, the team, and the business.

a)      State how it makes you feel when they behave that way. (If they’ve given a perfectly valid reason for their behaviour then it will likely influence how you feel. For example, if they are late consistently to meetings and say it’s due to some recent family problems then you’ll likely feel differently than if they have no good reason at all).

b)      State the impact of their behaviour on the team (e.g. the feelings of colleagues, impact on staff workload)

c)       State the wider impact on the business (e.g. project delays, lost sales, increased costs, customer complaints)

It’s also useful to include what the consequences will be for you, the team and the business if this behaviour continues. It’s important to clearly convey the reasons why the behaviour needs to change at this point.


Person giving feedback;

“I feel frustrated and annoyed when you don’t turn up to team meetings on time. It feels as though you are not respectful of the rest of the team and our time. We really value your contribution to the meetings and we need you to hear the issues we’re discussing too to inform your own work during the rest of the week. If you are not there then there is a real chance that you’ll miss out on key information you need to do your job properly. That said I feel confident we can explore how we can change things, so that we get your full participation in future meetings.


This is the point where you ask the person receiving the feedback how they feel.

It’s important not to assume how they will react to the feedback, so make time here to find out how they really feel.

It can be easy to skip this part and jump straight into telling the person what you want the behaviour to look like in the future, but you’re less likely to get them to buy into making a change if you completely ignore how they feel and how that might impact the next steps needed to make the change happen.

A key determinant of how someone will respond will be whether they accept your feedback as reality or deny it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you only share specific feedback on behaviour you yourself have witnessed and to then share how that behaviour has affected and impacted upon you in a business context. It is not likely that someone will deny that the behaviour occurred when you do this. It is not possible for them to deny how you felt, since it is your personal experience.

If you present someone with this reality as you have experienced it and they accept it to be reality too, then they may feel a variety of emotions – guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated. It’s important for you to show curiosity around why they say they feel the way they do.

If you present someone with this reality as you have experienced it and they deny it to be true then you have a problem – the person is in denial, and until they can accept what has happened and own it, then you will not get any change in behaviour from them.

Sometimes it can be helpful to reiterate that it is the behaviour that you want to see change and not them. Some people can take feedback as a direct attack on them as an individual – as a person.

It’s important to ensure you are not communicating the message of;

“You are a bad person”. 

It’s the behaviour in that specific context that you want to see change. The intended message should be;

“You are a good person, but I need this specific behaviour to change. I believe you can change. Let’s explore how.”


Person giving feedback;

“How do you feel about what I’ve told you regarding your behaviour and its effects? I’m confident that we can fix it, but I’m keen to know how you feel about this feedback before we explore next steps.”


This is where you then give very specific information on what good looks like in the future. Tell them exactly what behaviours you expect to see in future (what needs to stop, what needs to start) and then invite them to explore how they can make that happen. Let them know what support could be offered to help make it happen (e.g. change in work arrangements, training, mentoring, a coach, regular informal feedback in future, counselling).

Agree an action plan – this should ideally refer to a future event and date where the person will aim to demonstrate the desired behaviour and an agreement of any additional actions that might need to be taken in order to achieve that (e.g. attending a training course, working with a mentor, changing work arrangements).


Person giving feedback;

“From next week, I want you to arrive before the team meeting is due to start. I need that to be the case for all future meetings. What support do you need from me to make that happen? What barriers do you think might arise that need to be addressed?”

When you see the behaviour you want more of from that person, acknowledge it and express appreciation. It doesn’t need to be overly gushing, but make sure it’s direct and timely (ideally as soon as you witness it or soon after). This will help influence and embed the desired new behaviour.

I call the above approach the BROFF model, but cannot seem to find any reference to it elsewhere online. If anyone knows the origins of this model and can let me know then I will gladly add details to this blog entry to provide appropriate credit to the original source.