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8 Ways Of Giving Constructive Feedback That Make An Impact

8 Ways Of Giving Constructive Feedback That Make An Impact

Everyone wants feedback at some point. It may be part of a performance assessment or can be done at an informal level as things happen. It can be a useful tool in relationships too. The problem arises when feedback is not given properly and all sorts of misunderstandings arise. But the majority (96 percent) in one survey think that even negative or redirecting feedback is helpful in getting better results. The same study revealed that 75 percent want positive feedback with helpful suggestions on improving. The main purpose is to encourage, motivate and help your employee to build skills. Feedback is a skill we all need whether we are parents, friends, partners or managers. Here are eight ways to give constructive feedback so that everybody feels happy.

1. Always ask when is a good time

The person getting the feedback also needs time to prepare and reflect on how wells/he has done. That is why delivering feedback without any warning can have negative fallout which may make it even more difficult if there are delicate issues involved. A simple question, such as ‘When would you be ready for feedback on project X?’ can allow for some mental preparation.

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2. Listen first

When you start the conversation, ask the employee for his or views on how the latest project is going. Ask about the progress and the obstacles. This feedback style has one enormous advantage. You are giving the employee first serve in the game. It also makes the whole session much less confrontational. You will be glad to know that many of the points you have jotted down are actually being mentioned. It also gives you, the manager, a chance to see some aspects which you may well have missed when preparing the session.

3. Try to be encouraging

Effective feedback will impact positively on the person’s performance and morale. All too often, both managers and employees dread giving and getting feedback and the whole process can become fraught. Look at the feedback matrix here to get some ideas. The manager/team leader thanks the employee and mentions some of the great stuff he is doing. This is really essential because it shows that his work is appreciated. This can help to drive motivation.

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4. Be specific when criticizing

At some point, you have to tell the employee where s/he has failed to meet the objectives or meet a deadline. There may be some errors in the work and also some careless oversights. The important things when giving the negative feedback are:

  • Point out clearly what is wrong. There may be negative customer feedback or errors in accounting. You need to have these at hand so that they can be shown to the employee.
  • Pause after each point so that the employee can come back with an explanation, justification, excuse, or an admittance that standards were not met.
  • Couch criticism of attitudes to work/meetings as diplomatically as possible. Rather than bluntly saying that they were not participating at all in the meeting, it may be better to say: ‘I noticed that you were using passive body language’.

5. Explain the effects of poor performance

There may be implications for customer satisfaction and services. Not following the correct procedures or overspending on costs or simply not paying enough attention to detail can all have a knock on effect on performance in the whole section. You have to make this very clear.

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6. Moving forward and improving

After the criticism, the emphasis will be very much on moving forward and setting things right.  A great way is to ask: ‘What can I do to help you get back on track with meeting deadlines?’  Then discuss what mini goals can be set so that performance improves. Be as specific as you can here. Set a date or period for a progress report so that you can both see how performance is getting better. Discuss ways together of how progress can be charted. This may be in the form of reports, graphs, data on customer satisfaction, or auditing reports.

7. Tie in the feedback with long term objectives

One great way to use feedback is to look at all the positives and the negatives and tie these in with the employee’s long term career goals. This should be a regular feature of all feedback and discussions. Tell them that once they have managed to fix X, they will be in a much better position to apply for a better position/promotion in the company. It is no accident that enlightened managers are thinking of ‘feedforward’ coaching rather than the old fashioned feedback.

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8. Always prefer face-to-face feedback, rather than email

In to-day’s digital and virtual workplace, it may be actually impossible to give face to face feedback. You may have to resort to an email. This is a minefield. In many cases, of course, written reports of performance assessments do get written but they are the result of a real human interaction and they are often an agreed version. But initial feedback by email is a different story. When you write feedback, you have to imagine the person’s reaction as s/he reads it. Trying to empathize will be a great help.

This is always why it is a good idea to write it twice. After the first draft, leave it for a day and then read it again with the intention of rewriting it. Harsh words can be like daggers and they hurt. Now you can see why managers and everybody else hates giving and getting feedback. This is one of the most sensitive areas in the workplace but if you follow the above tips, you should find it gets easier with time and experience.

Featured photo credit: Manager for a Day/FTTUB via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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