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.
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.
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.
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.
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