Giving feedback might be one of the most difficult things that managers have to do regularly, but providing useful and constructive information about your employees’ performance is an absolutely essential part of fostering a positive company culture. It’s important for your employees to know that the lines of communication between them and management are open. Read on to learn why feedback is necessary and how to communicate it effectively.
Why Constructive Feedback is Necessary
Both positive and negative feedback can help employees grow and continue to improve their performance. If given properly, feedback will help employees:
- Understand the areas and skills they need to improve
- Gain confidence in the skills they’ve mastered
- Know what they need to do in order to do a good job
- See how they have improved over time
- See how they are contributing to the goals of the organization at large
When managers don’t provide feedback, employees are left guessing about what they did correctly or incorrectly, or why managers are unhappy with their performance. Successful managers are able to provide feedback that offers insight on where employees are thriving, and where they still have room to grow.
Don’t Avoid It
Giving feedback can make us feel awkward or overly-critical towards people we like and care about. It’s fine to be empathetic — hurting the people we work closely with isn’t desirable. But remember, employees need feedback to thrive, so while it may feel like we are hurting them, properly-given feedback is positive in the long run. We often avoid giving feedback because we fear it will damage our professional relationship if the feedback isn’t well-received. This often stems from a lack of confidence. Managers who weren’t properly trained to give feedback don’t know the proper way to approach the subject.
Many managers are also worried they will be unable to handle it if their employees become emotional. It’s true that sometimes employees can be particularly sensitive to criticism. You can offer them reassurance and solutions as well, so they recognize that they are capable of getting better and they can take the first steps towards doing so.
How To Give Fantastic Feedback Every Time
The best feedback is always kind, direct, and not passive-aggressive. Here are some tips on how to give the best feedback:
- Ask for permission. Take your employee aside and ask if they have a moment for some feedback. Maybe they could be having a particularly bad day, or they might not be in the right mindset to listen to your feedback productively. Asking permission can prepare them mentally so they will be in a better state to receive your feedback.
- Don’t blame, attack, judge or criticize. Instead of saying something like, “you're lazy,” say, “I noticed that the past two reports you owed me were late.” Use only what you observe instead of jumping to a conclusion about why their behavior was the way it was. Make sure you’re not letting your emotions get in the way of what you have to say. A personal attack is never helpful, so focus on performance instead of on your employee’s personality. Let your employees know that you care about their growth and the part they play in your company.
- Recognize their needs and how they affect your own. Every human has a set of universal needs. These needs are often brought up as emotions in difficult conversations. If you are able to recognize the need behind the emotion, it’s easier to identify ways to meet everyone’s universal needs and improve performance for the entire team.
- Be specific with your requests. Instead of noting that an employee needs to improve, tell them the specific areas they need to improve in, or the specific tasks they need to get better at. In the same vein, it’s important that you’re making requests and not demands, which gives your employees a chance to meet your needs.
- Keep it concise. If you’re nervous about giving feedback, you might find yourself rambling on or getting off-topic. Instead, focus on simply telling the employee the problem you observed, how it makes you feel and how they can better meet your needs. Keeping your message short and simple will help you make sure that nothing else is clouding the point you’re trying to get across.
- Offer suggestions. Talk about ways that you can improve together. Maybe offer them training or other resources that are available within the company. Make sure that they know they’re not alone in tackling the issue at hand.
- Pause and listen. Always listen to what the employee has to say after you’ve offered them feedback. They have the need to feel respected and supported, and it’s important that you make sure that they have a safe space to voice what they’re feeling as well.
- End on a positive note. The end goal for both you and the employee is to improve the problem. Always let them know how much you appreciate their attention to the matter and the hard work they put in every day.
- Follow up. Continuously check on the progress that the employee is making to be sure that your feedback was heard and understood.
What To Do When Your Feedback Isn’t Well Received
It’s inevitable that sometimes, your feedback won’t end up having the impact you hoped it would. When this is the case, it’s time to ask how the employee is feeling about what you’ve said. Think about what emotions they may be feeling and how you’d react if you were in the same situation. Don’t take it personally, let them know that you want them to feel heard, and tell them that they aren’t alone.
You don’t have to get it right every time, just always be open-minded and emphatic towards what the employee has to say. You are using the feedback to state your expectations and build healthy and productive boundaries, and it’s important that the employee knows what happens if these lines are crossed. This sets a clear set of expectations so that the employee knows what will happen if your needs aren’t met.
Giving an employee feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary for every CEO and Human Resources department. Follow the above guideline to make this difficult task more effective and productive, and foster a company culture of positivity and confidence.
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