Real Time vs Delayed Feedback

One of the most common things I’ve observed in the workplace when it comes to new employees is their craving for feedback.  They want it from everyone in anyway they can get it.  No feedback is bad feedback.  They are itching to improve at all times, as they want to succeed and provide value to the company they are working for.  This oftentimes poses a challenge for managers, as they are not always prepared to provide feedback.  Knowing ones feedback style - both how you like to give and receive it - is important to providing strong feedback.  Here are two styles of feedback.

Real Time Feedback

As expected, this feedback happens in real time.  As soon as you do something positive or negative, you are provided with feedback on your performance.  This is great and what you asked for, right?  The best thing about real time feedback is you will remember it and will know right away what you did and in what context.  The fact that it is in context is crucially important.  Many times you try to think back to what you’ve done or accomplished and it is hard to remember, but knowing what you did, when you did it, and how you did it is important to improving.  

If you are seeking real time feedback, I suggest you inform your manager ahead of time.  This is a line that will work: “I’d like you to take a look at how I handle this challenging conversation in this next meeting.  Can you provide feedback on how I do?”  This allows your manager to have some level of awareness and preparation heading into that meeting.  Otherwise, they will just be a participant in the meeting and not always looking out for feedback opportunities.  Great managers should always look for ways to help you improve, but it is courteous and beneficial for you to give them a head’s up on what you want assistance on.

Real time feedback allows for real time improvement.  Once your manager shares the real time feedback, you know what you did or did not do and can adjust.  Rather than continuing a bad habit, you can nip it in the bud right then and there and know how to improve.

Delayed Feedback

This is often in the form of a mid year or year end performance review.  This is a culmination of your performance over a longer period of time.  Your manager has had more time to think through your performance and how you can improve.  While you may think this will allow them to provide a fuller, more complete picture, it can often be a challenge for them.  They won’t remember every small detail, rather they will remember the bigger picture.

One of the good traits of delayed feedback is it allows your manager to see patterns over time.  Some of your actions may have been a one time event or even a one time slip up.  If that continues over time, they will see that and can document it to share with you.  This let’s you understand how you have performed over time and what to continue or stop doing.

Since this style of feedback is delayed, so are your improvements.  You may not know what you’re doing until someone informs you.  If they wait until a year end review, you may be repeating bad habits for an entire year.  This does not allow you to improve incrementally and may form additional bad habits.


You will likely encounter both styles of feedback at work.  If you prefer one over the other, inform your manager and help them provide you feedback in the best way for you.  But, be open to all types of feedback, regardless of the style.

Thought Starters

  • What is your preferred style for receiving feedback?
  • How can you work with your manager to improve the line of communication for giving feedback?