Understanding the Difference Between Formal and Informal Feedback

Feedback is a powerful tool for growth and development, providing valuable insight and guidance for improvement. There are two common types of feedback: formal and informal. In this expert article, we explore the nuances that distinguish formal and informal feedback. By understanding their characteristics and implications, individuals and organizations can harness the power of feedback to foster a culture of continuous improvement and drive success.

Formal feedback

Formal feedback refers to feedback processes that follow a structured and planned approach. Here are some key characteristics of formal feedback:

  • Scheduled and organized: Formal feedback is typically planned in advance and occurs within an established framework, such as a performance appraisal, review meeting, or evaluation. It follows a predetermined timeline and is often part of a formal evaluation process.
  • Objective and systematic: Formal feedback is characterized by an objective and systematic approach, driven by predefined criteria or performance metrics. It focuses on specific goals, competencies, or job requirements, allowing for a comprehensive assessment.
  • Authority-Based: Formal feedback is typically provided by people in positions of authority, such as managers, supervisors, or team leaders. It follows a hierarchical structure, with feedback flowing from those in higher positions to those in lower positions.
  • Documented and recorded: Formal feedback is documented and recorded using standardized forms, performance appraisal systems, or assessment tools. This documentation serves as a formal record that can be tracked and referenced for future discussions.

Informal Feedback

Informal feedback, on the other hand, is characterized by spontaneous and unplanned exchanges that occur in day-to-day interactions. Here are some key characteristics of informal feedback

  • Unscheduled and timely: Informal feedback is not bound by schedules or formalities. It is spontaneous and often provided in real time or shortly after observing a particular behavior, action, or outcome.
  • Contextual and specific: Informal feedback is contextual and focused on specific situations, tasks, or behaviors. It addresses immediate concerns, offers suggestions, or highlights noteworthy accomplishments by providing feedback directly related to the observed context.
  • Peer-based and multidirectional: Informal feedback can come from multiple sources and flow in multiple directions. It includes feedback from peers, subordinates, or even upward feedback from employees to their managers. It is not constrained by hierarchical structures.
  • Informal setting: Informal feedback takes place in casual settings such as impromptu conversations, team meetings, or project discussions. It is often delivered in a more relaxed and informal manner, encouraging open communication and relationship building.

Implications and Benefits

Understanding the difference between formal and informal feedback is critical to maximizing its benefits:

  • Formal feedback: Formal feedback provides a structured framework for evaluation, performance management, and career development. It provides consistency, fairness, and accountability within organizations. However, it can be limited in its ability to capture real-time feedback and address immediate development needs.
  • Informal feedback: Informal feedback promotes continuous learning, encourages open communication, and strengthens relationships. It provides timely guidance, allows for quick adjustments, and contributes to a culture of feedback. However, it may lack the systematic evaluation and documentation associated with formal feedback.


Both formal and informal feedback have distinct roles and benefits in the feedback landscape. Formal feedback provides structure, accountability, and comprehensive evaluation, while informal feedback facilitates real-time learning, communication, and relationship building. Recognizing and leveraging the strengths of each type empowers individuals and organizations to create a feedback-rich culture that fosters growth, innovation, and success. By taking a balanced approach to formal and informal feedback, individuals and organizations can reach their full potential and thrive in today’s dynamic environment.


What is the difference between formal and informal feedback?

Informal feedback is the everyday casual conversation regarding the work being done. Formal feedback is a more organized and documented communication, most typically seen in annual reviews, recognition programs, or disciplinary processes.

Why is it important to give formal and informal feedback?

Feedback that is constructive is vital to employees’ ongoing development. Feedback clarifies expectations, helps people learn from their mistakes and builds confidence.

What is a formal method of feedback?

Formal feedback is planned and systematically scheduled into the process. Usually associated with assessment tasks, formal feedback includes the likes of marking criteria, competencies or achievement of standards, and is recorded for both the student and organisation as evidence.

What are some examples of informal feedback?

Examples of informal feedback

Great job on achieving XYZ! I know it was a tough project, and it turned out great.” “I appreciate how innovative you were with streamlining XYZ! I think our team would benefit from learning what you did differently.”

What is an informal feedback?

Informal feedback is ongoing, in-the-moment coaching given to employees (given by managers outside of the formal review), providing them with a clear idea of their performance throughout the year.

What are the 2 types of feedback?

There are only two — positive and constructive. Positive feedback reinforces behavior that we want to see continue. It’s the most effective way to get more of a behavior from someone.

Why is formal feedback important?

Both supervisors and peers may deliver feedback, and when done tactfully, the process can create a stronger, more harmonious workplace. Positive and negative feedback is important because it helps break bad habits, reinforces positive behavior, and enables teams to work more effectively toward their goals.

How do you get informal feedback?

Informal Customer Feedback Tools

  1. Observation. If you sell your products directly to customers, you can gather feedback information simply by watching them interact with your offerings while they shop.
  2. Social media.
  3. Conversations.
  4. Sales.


What are the 3 types of feedback?

The three forms of feedback: appreciation, coaching and evaluation.

What are the different types of feedback?

Feedback can take many forms such as oral, written, informal, formal, descriptive, evaluative, peer and self-assessed feedback.

What is an example of formal feedback?

Examples of formal feedback look like: Annual performance reviews. Evaluation scores. Human resource reports.

What is the most common type of feedback?

Positive feedback is arguably one of the most common forms of feedback. This method involves providing positive or affirming feedback pertaining to a past event. This method would be used if a teammate or colleague did something that you would like them to mimic or repeat in the future.

What are the types of feedback explain with example?

This is Expert Verified Answer

Negative feedback – corrective comments about past behavior. Positive feedback – affirming comments about past behavior. Negative feedforward – corrective comments about future performance. Positive feedforward – affirming comments about future behavior.

What are the different types of feedback?

Feedback can take many forms such as oral, written, informal, formal, descriptive, evaluative, peer and self-assessed feedback.

What are the 3 types of feedback in education?

The three forms of feedback: appreciation, coaching and evaluation.

What is formal and informal performance management?

Formal performance appraisals usually occur at specified time organization to evaluate employee performance. Informal performance appraisal can occur whenever the supervisor feels communication is needed. For example, if the employee has been consistently meeting or exceeding standards.

What are two ways to get informal feedback?

Informal Customer Feedback Tools

  • Observation. If you sell your products directly to customers, you can gather feedback information simply by watching them interact with your offerings while they shop.
  • Social media.
  • Conversations.
  • Sales.


What are some methods of collecting formal feedback?

By the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to answer it.

  • Customer feedback surveys.
  • Email and customer contact forms.
  • Usability tests.
  • Exploratory customer interviews.
  • Social media.
  • On-site activity (via analytics) .
  • Instant feedback from your website.


What are some examples of constructive feedback?

Example of constructive feedback: “Helen, I always appreciate how productive and reliable you are, but I have noticed a change in your performance lately. Turning in assignments late is unlike you. I wanted to check in with you to discuss any challenges you have been facing and understand how I can support you better.”