The Case Against Coddling: Why Giving Tough Feedback Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Team

Training Courses

The Case Against Coddling: Why Giving Tough Feedback Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Team

No one likes to be told they’re not doing a great job. In fact, many managers struggle with giving tough feedback, opting instead for praise and positive reinforcement.

But what if I told you that giving tough feedback is actually the best thing you can do for your team? That’s right, tough feedback, also known as constructive criticism or brutal honesty, can be a powerful tool for improving performance, building trust, and fostering growth within your team.

The Fear of Tough Feedback

Fearby Benjamin Wedemeyer (

Many managers shy away from giving tough feedback because they fear it will damage their relationship with their team members or demotivate them. They may also worry about the recipient becoming defensive or disengaged, or even quitting.

But in reality, avoiding tough feedback can have worse consequences. Employees who don’t receive feedback, both positive and negative, can become demotivated and disengaged. They may also continue to make the same mistakes, resulting in poor performance and lower team morale.

The Consequences of Avoiding Tough Feedback

Avoiding the difficult conversations about performance or behavior can lead to a buildup of unresolved issues. When issues aren’t addressed, they can fester and grow, potentially leading to a toxic work environment. This avoidance can also set a precedent that poor performance is tolerated, which can demoralize hardworking team members who feel that their efforts go unrecognized.

The Misconception of Tough Feedback as Negative

Some managers believe that tough feedback is inherently negative and harmful, but this is a misconception. The truth is that tough feedback, when delivered correctly, is not about reprimanding or punishing someone. Instead, it’s an opportunity to guide and support an individual’s development. The key is to ensure that the feedback is constructive and focused on improvement.

Overcoming the Fear

To overcome the fear of giving tough feedback, managers can work on developing their communication skills and learning how to deliver feedback in a way that is clear, constructive, and empathetic. It’s also helpful to remember the purpose of tough feedback—to help individuals grow and succeed. By keeping this in mind, managers can approach these conversations with a positive mindset.

The Power of Tough Feedback

The Benefits of Tough Feedback

On the other hand, giving tough feedback can have a multitude of benefits for both the individual and the team as a whole.

Encourages Growth and Improvement

Growthby Brandon Green (

Feedback is essential for growth and improvement. Without it, individuals may continue to make the same mistakes or never reach their full potential. By providing tough feedback, you are helping your team members identify areas for improvement and giving them the opportunity to develop their skills.

How Tough Feedback Drives Performance

When team members understand where they need to improve, they can focus their efforts more effectively. Tough feedback can motivate employees to set personal goals and take ownership of their professional development. Moreover, when improvements are recognized and celebrated, it can lead to higher levels of engagement and commitment to the team’s success.

Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Receiving tough feedback often requires individuals to think critically about their work and their approach to challenges. This can enhance their problem-solving skills as they learn to anticipate potential issues and consider different strategies for overcoming obstacles. As a result, they become more resilient and adaptable, which are valuable traits in any team member.

Builds Trust and Respect

Tough feedback can be a sign of trust and respect. When you give someone constructive criticism, you are showing them that you believe in their ability to improve and that you have their best interests at heart. This can help build trust and respect between you and your team members.

Fosters an Environment of Honesty

Creating a culture where honesty is valued and encouraged can lead to more open and meaningful relationships within the team. When team members feel comfortable giving and receiving honest feedback, it can reduce misunderstandings and help everyone work together more effectively.

Demonstrates Investment in Individual Success

By taking the time to provide personalized feedback, managers demonstrate their investment in each team member’s success. This can boost morale and loyalty, as employees feel valued and understood. It can also encourage them to invest more fully in their work and the team’s objectives.

Promotes Open Communication

Communicationby Ben Collins (

Avoiding tough feedback can lead to a culture of silence and avoidance. By creating an environment where tough feedback is encouraged, you are promoting open communication and transparency within your team. This can lead to better problem-solving, collaboration, and trust among team members.

Breaks Down Barriers to Communication

When tough feedback is normalized, it can break down barriers that may have previously prevented team members from speaking up. Individuals may feel more empowered to voice their opinions and concerns, which can lead to more dynamic and effective teamwork.

Encourages Active Listening and Empathy

Open communication is a two-way street, and giving tough feedback often requires active listening and empathy. By engaging in these practices, managers can foster an environment where team members feel heard and understood, even when the conversations are difficult.

Creates a Culture of Continuous Improvement

When tough feedback is a regular part of the team culture, it can create a mindset of continuous improvement. Team members will be more open to receiving feedback and will be more likely to seek out ways to improve their performance. This can lead to a high-performing team that is always striving to be better.

Establishes High Standards and Expectations

A culture that embraces tough feedback also sets high standards and clear expectations for performance and behavior. This clarity helps team members understand what is expected of them and encourages them to meet or exceed those expectations.

Recognizes and Rewards Adaptability

When team members respond positively to tough feedback and make noticeable improvements, it’s important to recognize and reward their adaptability. This not only reinforces the value of the feedback but also motivates others to be receptive to constructive criticism.

Encourages Self-Assessment and Reflection

Encouraging team members to assess their own work and reflect on feedback can lead to deeper learning and growth. When individuals take the time to reflect on tough feedback, they can identify patterns in their behavior and make more informed decisions about how to change and improve.

How to Give Tough Feedback Effectively

Teamby Christina @ (

Now that you understand the benefits of tough feedback, let’s explore how you can give it effectively to your team members.

Be Specific and Timely

Tough feedback should be specific and timely. This means addressing the issue as soon as possible, rather than letting it fester and become an even bigger problem. It also means being specific about the behavior or action that needs to be improved, rather than making generalizations.

The Importance of Context in Feedback

Providing context for the feedback helps the recipient understand why the issue is important and how it impacts the team or organization. This can make the feedback more meaningful and actionable for the individual receiving it.

Avoiding Delayed Feedback

Delayed feedback can be less effective because the details of the situation may no longer be fresh in the recipient’s mind. It’s important to give feedback as close to the event as possible, so the individual can clearly remember the actions that led to the feedback and take immediate steps to improve.

Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person

It’s important to separate the behavior from the individual. This means avoiding statements like “you are lazy” and instead focusing on the specific behavior that needs to be addressed. For example, “I noticed that you have been arriving to work late consistently. This is causing disruptions to the team’s workflow.”

Addressing Actions Rather Than Making Assumptions

When giving feedback, focus on observable actions and behaviors, rather than making assumptions about the person’s motives or character. This approach is less likely to provoke defensiveness and more likely to lead to a constructive conversation.

Communicating Impact Without Blame

Explain the impact of the behavior on the team or project without placing blame. This can help the recipient see the consequences of their actions and understand the need for change without feeling attacked.

Use the Sandwich Method

Sandwichby Rudy Dong (

The sandwich method is a popular technique for giving tough feedback. It involves sandwiching the negative feedback between two positive statements. For example, “I really appreciate the effort you’ve been putting into your projects. However, I have noticed that you have been missing deadlines recently. I believe that if you can improve your time management skills, you will become an even more valuable member of the team.”

The Benefits of Positive Reinforcement

Starting and ending with positive feedback reinforces the individual’s strengths and contributions, which can make them more receptive to the critical part of the feedback. It’s a way to remind them that they are valued, despite the areas needing improvement.

Avoiding a “Feedback Sandwich” Overuse

While the sandwich method can be effective, it’s important not to overuse it or become formulaic, as this can lead to the recipient dismissing the positive feedback and only focusing on the negative. Use this method judiciously and vary your approach based on the situation and the individual.

Offer Solutions and Support

Tough feedback should always be accompanied by suggestions for improvement and support. Simply telling someone they are not meeting expectations is not enough. Offer specific solutions or resources to help them improve, and let them know that you are there to support them in their growth and development.

Providing Actionable Steps

When offering solutions, provide actionable steps that the recipient can take to address the feedback. This might include setting specific goals, attending training, or working with a mentor. Actionable steps give the recipient a clear path forward and demonstrate your commitment to their development.

Encouraging a Collaborative Approach to Solutions

Engage the recipient in the process of finding solutions. This collaborative approach can empower them to take ownership of their improvement and can lead to more effective and personalized strategies for growth.

Follow Up

Follow-upby Wyron A (

Following up on tough feedback is crucial. It shows that you are committed to helping your team members improve and that you value their growth. Follow up with your team members regularly to see how they are progressing and offer any additional support or guidance as needed.

Setting Checkpoints for Progress

Establishing regular checkpoints can provide structure and accountability for the recipient as they work on improving. These checkpoints can be opportunities to discuss progress, adjust goals, and celebrate achievements.

Being Available for Ongoing Support

Make it clear that you are available for ongoing support and that the feedback process is a continuous dialogue. This reinforces the idea that improvement is a journey and that you are there to guide and assist along the way.

Examples of Tough Feedback in Action

Examplesby Tengyart (

Giving tough feedback can be challenging, but it’s a necessary part of being a good manager. Here are some examples of how tough feedback can be used effectively:

Addressing Poor Performance

If a team member is consistently missing deadlines or producing subpar work, it’s important to address this behavior immediately. Be specific about the areas that need improvement and offer resources or support to help them improve. For example, “I’ve noticed that your last few projects have been submitted past the deadline. This is causing delays for the team and affecting the quality of our work. Can we discuss ways to improve your time management skills?”

Addressing Behavior That Affects Team Dynamics

When a team member’s behavior negatively impacts team dynamics, it’s important to address the issue directly. This might include instances of negativity, lack of collaboration, or disrespect towards others. Providing feedback on these behaviors can help maintain a positive and productive team environment.

Addressing Communication Issues

Communication is key in any team, and if a team member is struggling with communication, it’s important to address this issue before it affects the team’s performance. Be specific about the communication issues that need to be addressed and offer suggestions for improvement. For example, “I’ve noticed that there have been misunderstandings between you and your team members recently. It’s important that we work on our communication skills to ensure that we are all on the same page. Would you be open to attending a communication workshop?”


To conclude, giving tough feedback is a crucial aspect of effective leadership and team management. By focusing on observable actions, using techniques like the sandwich method judiciously, offering solutions and support, providing actionable steps, encouraging collaboration, following up consistently, setting checkpoints for progress, being available for ongoing support, and addressing specific issues such as poor performance, team dynamics, and communication, managers can foster a culture of growth, improvement, and success within their teams. Remember, tough feedback, when delivered constructively and with the recipient’s development in mind, can lead to positive outcomes and stronger team dynamics.