Skip To Content

Giving Feedback

Evaluating an employee’s performance is much more than an annual exercise. Meet frequently with your employees over the year to provide feedback, instruction and evaluation. Annual evaluations should never include surprises.

Feedback should be guided by two overriding principles:

  • respect for the individual as a child of God
  • a common desire to strive for the best we can be for the Church/diocese/God

Addressing problems

One of the most stressful situations for a supervisor is addressing inappropriate or inadequate performance or behaviour by a staff member. This can range from subtle, hard-to-define incompetence to overt non-compliance.

When you become aware of poor performance, there are two common responses you must avoid:

  • looking the other way and hoping it won’t happen again
  • making a hasty judgment, condemning the person and assuming they can never change

Sometimes there are small matters that aren’t malicious or chronic, like wasting paper, not meeting a deadline or arriving late for a staff meeting. Speak privately to the employee as soon as you can; the faster you provide feedback, the more likely the behaviour will change. Reasons for the inappropriate behaviour can include:

  • unclear expectations
  • a perception that consequences will be minor
  • misunderstandings
  • obstacles beyond the employee’s control
  • temporary stress or frustration on the employee’s part

Don’t assume that helping someone to be responsible for their behaviour is somehow un-Christian. Whatever the behaviour, it needs to be addressed in a spirit of redemption, grace, compassion and justice.

Be proactive

In a work relationship, silence isn’t golden. Never assume your staff are confident they’re doing a good job or know what you expect. What may seem obvious to you can be obscure or unknown to others who don’t have access to the same information.

No feedback can be just as damaging as constant negative feedback. Focus on the positive skills and abilities and let it be known how much you appreciate them.

Characteristics of good feedback


Be specific and clear about the behaviour. Avoid vague words like timely, reasonable, approximately, desirable…


Use tact when having to make negative statements. “You’re perceived as not managing your time well when…” is better than “You’re lazy.” Use feelings, thoughts and perceptions to state how the employee’s behaviour prevented good performance. “I feel some frustration and concern when you’re persistently late for meetings because your input is valuable, and yet the rest of the group has to wait for you.”


Outline what happened (a problem or error) and why it shouldn’t happen. Then offer an alternative solution (solve the problem, suggest better work habits). The employee may be more open to constructive suggestions if you recognize positive aspects of the work or behaviour and offer a helpful approach.


Don’t avoid issues that need to be faced. State clearly and accurately what you or the assessors perceive. Stay with the subject. Be encouraging and include the positives. Show respect for the other’s feelings.

Relevant and credible

Don’t be too negative. Beware of the single-event evaluation. Look instead for patterns of behaviour that recur over time. Focus on relevant behaviours that impede effective performance. It may be irritating when the bookkeeper wears a track suit, but if they don’t have contact with the public and always produce splendid financial statements, dress may not be an appropriate criterion for performance. Also, deal with behaviour the receiver can do something about. Be solution-oriented.


Give positive and negative feedback immediately and address issues as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the periodic (annual) performance appraisal.


Check to make sure the employee understands what you’re trying to get across. Have them articulate the issues.

Annual review

The annual performance review is a formal process for churchwardens to use with parish lay staff to:

  • discuss the employee’s job performance, career objectives and ministry development
  • review goals and accomplishments
  • set goals and objectives for the coming year
  • identify training needs

This process is accomplished through a performance evaluation meeting. You can find the procedures and a sample review form in the Incumbent and Parish Staff document.