Mentors: Best Practices for Giving Feedback

Why should I give feedback?

  • It is your obligation to help your mentee identify and learn the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career.
  • Feedback allows you to acknowledge your mentee’s strengths and to motivate the mentee to work on areas of weakness.
  • Your mentee wants and needs your feedback to move forward in his or her career.

When should I provide feedback?

  • There is no answer set in stone, but the general answer is that you should provide feedback frequently.
  • It is helpful to provide feedback on a regular basis so your mentee doesn’t get bogged down pursuing the wrong path in his or her research or professional development.
  • Feedback should be given on a timely basis. It is not helpful to provide feedback about a behavior or research method long after the behavior has occurred or the experiment has been completed.
  • Prompt and frequent feedback will go a long way toward cementing your relationship.

How do I give constructive and effective feedback?

  • The most important element in providing effective feedback is establishing an atmosphere of mutual trust and regard. When a feeling of trust has been created, it is easier both to give and to accept feedback.
  • Providing and receiving feedback can be a very positive experience for the mentor and the mentee as long as you both understand that you share the same commitment to developing the mentee’s career.
  • When you give feedback, it is important to acknowledge the mentee’s contributions along with the areas in which you are needing more.
  • You should always be specific in providing feedback. It is not terribly helpful to say, “You are not producing.” It is much more useful to describe the specific element of work that concerns you.
  • Keep the feedback simple. When planning to give feedback, decide on a small number of areas that you want to cover. You don’t want to create a shopping list of faults that could overwhelm and discourage the mentee.
  • Hold the meeting in your office or other private space – never provide negative feedback in an open area with others around.
  • While you are giving feedback, maintain eye contact and a measured tone. Some mentees need a bit of gentleness so as not to get discouraged.

This section adapted from the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh

To further develop your communication skills, read more about resolving conflict and active listening.