I need to provide feedback for this coworker who has created multiple issues. Among them are that he:

  • Has careless attitude.
  • Never meets deadlines.
  • Fails to deliver.
  • Refuses take responsibility.
  • Resists learning domain knowledge.
  • Never communicates status.
  • Shows no initiative to learn.

I need to provide his feedback, but I don't want to concentrate only on negatives. Unfortunately, there is very little positive to talk about him.

  • How can I write his feedback in a positive tone and later provide constructive feedback?
  • Is it a good idea to provide specific incident in the feedback?
  • 8
    Why do you want to provide a feedback to a coworker? Do you have authority to do so or it's just personal?
    – BlackMath
    Aug 9, 2020 at 13:29
  • 2
    @BlackMath: I have been asked by manager to share the feedback as I work with them frequently. Though they don't report to me, I am responsible for their day to day work.
    – coworker
    Aug 9, 2020 at 14:15
  • 5
    It's not normal. Usually the supervisor or the manager gives such feedback. It won't be accepted by the coworker as you don't have authority to do so. A manager cannot change the structure of the company as they wish. This creates chaos and confusion.
    – BlackMath
    Aug 9, 2020 at 15:51
  • 8
    @BlackMath That depends entirely on the company. In some companies, 360° feedback (colleagues give feedback to one another and their managers) is normal. And even if this is the manager's job, they need to build their feedback on something, and asking the people who work with their subordinate might be fairer than judging from a distance.
    – Llewellyn
    Aug 9, 2020 at 19:47
  • 1
    I'd advise caution against saying subjective things like "he has a careless attitude" unless you can back them up with concrete examples. Remember that your manager doesn't know what you know and won't feel the same way you do about this person. Help them to understand by giving them something tangible to go on.
    – Touchdown
    Aug 10, 2020 at 16:18

4 Answers 4


1 - Know the power dynamic

Since it's not clear - I'm not sure which case you may fit into... but realize that there's a big difference between asked and unasked for feedback, as well as feedback that comes from a buddy, mentor or superior vs. someone who is a fellow member of the team.

If this person asked you for feedback, or you are in a role that is tasked with giving him feedback (buddy, mentor, supervisor) - then you can just start with "I have some feedback you should hear..." - but if you are not clearly tasked with this duty - then you may want to start with a more delicate form - "Do you mind if I give you some feedback..." and you may want to also include how this relates to you for example - "as a fellow member of the team, I've figured out some things that work really well that you may want to try..." - or "as someone who is a stakeholder in your work, these are some things that would help me greatly". Those are two different relationships - the more you can do a small bit to connect his need to change to why it matters to you, the more helpful it might be in terms of getting the feedback to actually be absorbed in a positive way.

2 - Deliver Clearly, don't imply intent

There are a bunch of tools for this out there - here is one:


I googled "feedback, action, result" and the answers were neverendless.

The basic idea of good feedback is that you:

  • cover what the person is doing wrong and when. It's kind of like a bug report - anything you say about what the demonstrated problem is that is clearly visible can be helpful. Most important is the behavior - what is the thing that this person is doing that is not OK?

  • describe why it's bad in terms of demonstrable impact - for example "when you deliver your work late, I have to either scramble to get my work done or the whole project will be late" - vs. "when you deliver your work late, it makes me think you don't care" - the first is a very testable result and hard to argue with. The second is your impression of his attitude and he's the expert on that... you aren't.

The two things together should be focused on the action and free of emotion and ascribed intent. I won't say that this avoids ALL arguments, or mitigates all defensiveness - people can argue and be defensive about just about anything - but it gives you a stronger place to be convincing - if you say "you delivered your work late" and he says "no I didn't", you can then say "you were supposed to deliver on day X, you delivered on day X+N... that's late" - and that's pretty clear. If he then argues, he's either delusional, or he is working toward finding some clarity. For example "I didn't know day X was the deadline" - OK, could be true, now we've moved the problem around - he needs to make sure he's paying attention and knows where to go to get deadline information. You can say "the deadline was mentioned here..." and you two are starting to solve a problem.

A lot of the sites you'll find lead directly into "coaching" - the idea of getting someone on the track to better performance - which can be a powerful tool towards the solution, but it isn't necessarily connected to feedback. If there's 1 right way to do something, it's OK with feedback to say "don't do this, do this other thing..." - but it's also OK to go through the coaching patterns of "what could you do instead of the thing I don't want you do to?" - which can be motivating for the other person, since they are driving the solution.

I'm going to jump up and down on that "don't ascribe intent" point a bit - because of the things you say need correction, most of them are a mix of behaviors and your attribution of attitude or personal qualities:

He has a careless attitude, never meets deadlines, failed to deliver, does not wants to take any responsibility, does not want to learn domain knowledge or hasn't shown attitude to learn, never communicates status.

In that pile, I would pull out - missing deadlines, not finishing all requirements/tasks (was - failed to deliver), does not take responsibility (with examples...), has not demonstrated learning domain knowledge, does not communicate status. Notice that I avided "careless attitude", "does not want to...", "hasn't shown attitude to..." and also the word "never" - all of these are very hard items to test and prove. You really don't know why he's not doing the right stuff - and it really doesn't matter - if he truly hated everything about the job, but was doing a great job - it wouldn't be a problem for you.

3 - Relay to management

Yes, you could do items 1 and 2 w/out doing this. And in an informal environment or on a first-time basis - you could skip telling the boss.

But, you may want to go on record. If this was the most minor situation I can think - if I were trying to help a coworker, a peer, who seemed to just be having real problems - I might go with a friendly "hey, can you work on these things...?" with a quick 15-30 min conversation. Even then... I'd probably mention in my 1:1 with my boss that I'd done it. If for no other reason than if this guy is complaining about me - I'd want my boss to have my side of the story.

Also if I said "can I give you a little feedback" to the guy and he said "no, I'm all good, thanks but no." - I'd also tell this to the boss - that I'd seen some problems, I'd tried to offer to help, and I'd been rejected. Because I'd be saying to the boss "what do we do here? this is unacceptable..."

If I had the official duty of instructing this guy - either as a designated mentor/buddy or as an actual supervisor with reporting responsibility, I'd go a bit further - I'd make myself a note of what I said, when I said, and what his response was. If I was REALLY smart, I'd email it to myself. Usually an email through the company's email system is suitably private, but makes an auditable record with a date on it. I'd still tell the boss - even if I was the supervisor.

This isn't being a snitch - this is letting the folks in authority know that you're trying to work on a performance problem.

  • 1
    I'm not sure why this was downvoted, I feel like the main ways to approach the given problem are provided and in a concrete manner.
    – Al rl
    Aug 14, 2020 at 20:51
  • @bethlakshmi: "I googled "feedback, action, result" and the answers were neverendless." - maybe you wanted to say "neverending"?
    – virolino
    Aug 17, 2020 at 10:47

I need to provide feedback for this coworker

I assume by coworker, you mean you are peers (you're not his manager or team leader or anything)

He has a careless attitude, never meets deadlines, failed to deliver, does not wants to take any responsibility, does not want to learn domain knowledge or hasn't shown attitude to learn, never communicates status

I would be very careful about mentioning this kind of stuff. It's mainly stuff that should concern his manager rather than you, and you can't know the full picture. What if he missed a few deadlines under justifiable circumstances but never bothered to explain it to you? (Why should he?) Maybe he delivered on other ones you don't know about... His manager will know he has missed deadlines and may have already discussed it with him.

You should concentrate more on things that concern you. e.g. if he creates situations that you then have to fix, or your finding yourself having to pick up his slack, or if he is wasting your time with always asking you basic questions, or if you have personally observed poor quality work, or if you think he has passed the buck onto you (you say he doesn't take responsibility).


I think you need to be careful always when providing negative feedback for someone who may not be very experienced. Just recently I was mentor to a masters degree graduate who was on work experience who added zero value to our work environment. He was completely clueless and didn't really seem to care much at all about the work he was given, which was pretty basic and not very interesting. I was asked to provide feedback, but tried to avoid anything negative because basically this was government, I'm white, he was black and I truly have no idea what level of competence a recent masters graduate should have. I know some grads who were expert coders straight out of uni, then there are others who struggle with the basics. I have no idea though how good these people will be in three years time, so why be the person to kill their career before it evens starts, that isn't really fair I think, even if we omit race from the equation


If I understand correctly, you have been asked by your manager to provide feedback. I understand that you need to provide that feedback to the manager, not your colleague directly. That being the case, you don't need to "sweeten the pill" - your manager should be given the unadulterated truth.

You can simply tell your manager, "He has a careless attitude, never meets deadlines, failed to deliver, does not wants to take any responsibility, does not want to learn domain knowledge or hasn't shown attitude to learn, never communicates status." A positive tone and constructive feedback might be appropriate if you were giving the feedback to your colleague directly, but is not needed when you are providing information to your manager.

(However, you can clarify to your manager that you understand the context, and would phrase the feedback in a more constructive format if delivering it to your colleague yourself. Note also that I am not advocating talking dirty about people behind their backs - I'm not saying to bad-mouth your colleague, only to simply give an accurate picture).

Your manager may suspect that your colleague is not performing and may be looking for confirmation from those who know him best. They may be intending to deliver feedback to your colleague, collated from many sources (not just you), in their own way. They may even be under the mistaken impression that your colleague is a high performer, and about to offer them a promotion unless they hear any reason not to. They need to know the truth; this is not the time to paraphrase your feedback in a constructive way that seeks to find positives - that just obscures the message and misses an opportunity to share an understanding of your colleague's true capabilities.

  • 5
    Instead of stating things like "never meets deadlines", OP could give examples and explain how this causes more work and threatens project milestones.
    – Llewellyn
    Aug 9, 2020 at 19:49
  • @Llewellyn sure, I lifted a direct quote from the OP's question in his own words. It could be slightly better phrased, but my point was that he already knows what feedback he wants to give. As it's feedback to the manager, he can simply give it. If it were to his colleague directly, then and only then would he need to consider sweetening the pill. Aug 9, 2020 at 22:41
  • It's not about "sweetening the pill". (That would mean including positive statements that are irrelevant for the performance problems OP is seeing.) Even for the manager, subjective judgements are much less useful than observable actions. How is the manager supposed to check whether OP just doesn't like their coworker or has reasons to be upset? Facts and examples are easier to verify.
    – Llewellyn
    Aug 15, 2020 at 16:47
  • Not even disagreeing with you, dude. Just quoted the OP to show he already knows what to feed back. I mean, any semi-competent manager will follow up "never meets deadlines" with "what deadlines have they missed?", and will not need the consequences of missing deadlines explaining to them - in fact that would be quite patronising. The point is that the manager needs to be told the truth (as the OP understands it), not a mix of good and bad that makes it sound like the colleague is doing OK, when that's not what the OP thinks. Stop jumping on specific words. The message is what matters. Aug 15, 2020 at 17:55

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