The Importance of SBI When Giving Feedback In The Workplace

Manager giving negative feedback to employees by yelling

This is the third part of a series of articles on Feedback. The first two articles dealt with dealing with negative feedback and learning to give negative feedback. In this article, we are going to focus on a model, which helps us give better feedback. This model of feedback is known as the SBI model of feedback.

First things first, what is SBI and what does this acronym have to with giving feedback? SBI stands for Situation, Behavior and Impact. It is considered one of the most ideal ways to present feedback because it can help you structure your feedback in a manner that makes it easily understandable.

Let’s go through the acronym one by one and break it down with the help of examples and phrasing.

Situation

This involves describing a situation an employee was involved in. When you give feedback to a person, it is important that you let them know the situation in which the incident happened.

Bad Example:

“Colin. I really liked your presentation. Good job!”

This feedback makes sense only if the person giving it says it right after  the presentation has happened. But if that’s not the case, then this comment comes out of left field. And while it is a positive comment, it is rather vague. It gives the person receiving the feedback no context. Which presentation was being referred too? When was this presentation held?

The more you give feedback, the more you will realize that feedback needs context. Without context, feedback is just another generic statement, shorn of value.

Good Example:

“Colin, I really liked your presentation on the new sales plan last week. Good job!”

As you can see, context gives feedback heft. Also, the recipient knew what exactly the giver was talking about.

Behavior

This involves stating the way a person behaved in a certain situation that you want to give feedback upon. A person’s behavior informs feedback and allows you to judge whether the behavior helped the situation in a good way or a bad way.

Bad Example:

“Colin, I really disliked that presentation about the new sales plan. It was bad.”

While this feedback comment mentions the situation, it does not give the recipient Colin an idea about what went wrong. It is evident that the presentation was disliked. Was it the way Colin conducted the presentation? Was it something that Colin did during the presentation? The feedback provides no clue! As a result, feedback like this tend to be demoralizing because while it implies a bad job, it does not tell the recipient what  was it they did not do.

Good Example:

“Colin, I really disliked the presentation about the new sales plan. You fumbled a lot, with your notes and figures and I thought that reflected poorly on your manager. I am disappointed because I know you are usually good at presentations.”

In this feedback comment, the giver is blunt about his dislike but he  also explains why exactly he disliked the presentation and why he thought Colin did a bad job. This feedback comment lets the recipient where he went wrong.

Impact

The most important part of the SBI feedback model. This involves describing the impact that the person’s behavior had on the feedback giver or other people. Stating what impact a situation or behavior had closes the feedback process and allows both the recipient and the giver to propose a solution or rectify their mistakes.

Bad Example:

“Colin, you were unprepared for the presentation about the sales plan. This is not done.”

When you do not state how a person’s behavior affects you, then what is the point of giving feedback at all. Instead of feedback, the above statement becomes a comment about a bad job, which while relevant is not helpful. What you need to impress if how a person’s behavior impacted you and others.

Good Example: 

“Colin, your lack of preparation on the presentation for the new sales plan really disappointed me. Is there any reason why you were not prepared? You are generally good at planning ahead and working on presentations. I had brought along two other department managers to hear the presentation and they mentioned their disappointment.”

When Colin receives this feedback from his supervisor,  he will know where he went wrong, how it affected his supervisor, other colleagues and more importantly it also gives him a chance to explain himself.

Good feedback incorporates all these three factors – Situation, Behaviour and Impact. How you chose to utilize these three elements is up to you and you can include these in whatever order you like in your feedback. If you are someone who finds it difficult to give feedback or does not know how to structure their feedback, then the SBI model is a handy acronym to keep in mind.

And of course, the more feedback you give, and listen to as well, the better you will get at it!


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