Written by Alex Wilke
Over two thirds (69%) of managers in a recent survey admit they often feel uncomfortable when giving feedback to employees. Nearly four out of 10 (37%) were concerned about discussing issues that employees might react negatively to. But giving and receiving feedback is vital for both managers and employees. It creates an important dialogue that’s necessary for boosting employee engagement, staff retention and development and, ultimately, improving business performance.
We can all appreciate that giving and receiving feedback in the workplace, particularly in face-to-face situations can be a challenge. All too often it’s tempting for managers to skirt around negative issues that could be perceived as critical. And employees can feel they are being unfairly attacked and become defensive even when the manager is trying to be constructive and helpful. The upshot is that important feedback and insights about how employees’ can improve their performance doesn’t get accurately shared – which is bad for the employees, their managers and the business.
The world of business is changing rapidly and to succeed companies are increasingly moving to a culture of always-on feedback between employees and managers. Giving effective feedback to employees is central to building a flexible, agile business that can react to rapidly changing market conditions.
Here are five tips to focus on when giving staff feedback:
Emphasise that any feedback you’re providing is aimed at helping the employee improve their performance, move forward in their careers and fulfil their potential. It is positive, not negative.
When they feel uncomfortable people can continue talking in order to fill those awkward silences. You need to give the employee time and space to process the feedback they are receiving and listen and listen to their response and reactions. Paying attention and acknowledging them in a two way dialogue will help your message resonate and increase engagement over the longer term.
It’s human nature to feel defensive when someone seems to be criticising us. As a manager you need to be aware of this and try to depersonalise the situation. Remember that you’re commenting on the person’s actions and behaviour, not the person as an individual. Be very clear on this point because it is key to giving good feedback.
Being vague is very unhelpful. Highlight specific examples of where the employee needs to improve and try to clearly explain how things could be handled differently in the future. Be polite and direct, and base your feedback on facts, rather than hearsay or feelings. Making your points clearly and explicitly allows for an honest discussion that will lead to positive change, rather than one that will be viewed as unfair or unsubstantiated criticism.
Allow sufficient time to deliver your feedback and hear what the other person has to say. You want them to feel they are valued and important. Don’t rush off or appear distracted as this will come across as rude and unhelpful and undermine the message you are giving. Follow up after the meeting to ensure that you are both clear about what was discussed and what the next steps are.
Feedback is central to learning, both as a business and an individual. People and organisations thrive on feedback and it is critical to success in today’s knowledge and talent driven economy. Ensuring you can give honest, helpful and actionable feedback to employees, even in the most difficult situations, is a vital skill for every manager today.
A version of this post first appeared on HR Zone on 24th, May, 2016.