How to Give Effective Feedback at Work
November 14, 2017
The ability to give and receive constructive feedback is crucial to the success of any professional workplace relationship. Feedback feels very personal both for the person giving it and receiving it since it affects self-esteem and creates emotion. If the feedback being given is negative, the person giving it often doesn’t say what they really want to say because they feel that it may demotivate or hurt the person receiving it. This only stores up more frustration, annoyance and resentment which can make a person explode in a completely unrelated situation without the recipient understanding or realizing why this has happened.
Giving effective feedback is a hard rule in soft skill development. For managers, giving feedback is an important tool as it gives them a chance to offer opinions or evaluations of someone else’s behavior or performance. Most managers say they dislike giving feedback and don’t think it is effective and most employees say they don’t get enough feedback that actually helps them improve. Don’t squirm if you’re the type who hates any type of confrontation or dialogue. This short blog post lists down ways on how to deliver the good, the bad and the ugly without overstepping boundaries.
Depending on the type of feedback given, managers and team leaders may have varying emotions. Constructive or formative and evaluative feedback is always objective, non-judgmental and based on specific observations, encourages discussion and allows a positive course to be set for the future. This type of feedback is often ‘a breeze’ for any manager giving feedback and an employee receiving the feedback.
However, there is a more difficult type called punitive feedback –the kind that everyone at work is better off avoiding. Feedback given and received because of damages caused can be painful and stressful for both parties.
Don’t be too general in your feedback and give it often. It is a continuing process rather than a formal session given once or twice a year. It is important to identify specifically the issue of performance involved with specific aspects of the performance that you as the manager like or dislike. Don’t generalize. Giving objective, specific, fact-based feedback in a calm and timely manner is more effective and helpful than lashing out at someone about misbehaviors dating back years. Feedback is specific and factual. State an actual observation and how the specific action made an impact. State how the behavior affected results, or made you/others feel. Then, listen long enough to really understand. Clarify, don’t justify.
Focus on the issue not the person
Praise good performers right away. When negative feedback is required, talk with the employee within 24 hours. Your employee can’t read your mind. Be explicit about what needs to be done, changed or was not done well. Avoid statements like “you always ………” or “you never …….”. Take a right or wrong or good or bad approach. Give the information on what the person did to warrant a feedback. If they don’t know what specific behavior earns the praise, they have no way of knowing how to do it again in future. Remember a couple of things when giving difficult or hard-to-deliver feedback to your team:
“The worst way to give feedback is with the intent of sending the receiver running and crying to the restroom. Check your intent.
The worst way to receive feedback is with the intent of justifying and defending an action without listening and reflecting on the intent of the giver. Check your intent.”
Encourage, don’t pounce.
Be encouraging but don’t avoid or downplay the facts. One classic team management practice is to give feedback using the ‘Kiss-Kick-Kiss’ or the ‘Sandwich’ approach. Those using this approach today should be careful as to when this approach applies for best results. When a formative and evaluative feedback is called for, give it. When a punitive feedback is unavoidable, don’t evade it. When giving positive feedback, be appreciative without mentioning other things that might need to change or be adjusted. Save those for times when you need to talk to the person about a particular incident that needs correction or when you are giving constructive feedback in general.
Effective feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue. Although you should be armed with some solutions, discuss with the person concerned the possible solutions to the situation. Ask for his/her perspective on how they could resolve the situation. How can he/she improve? What worked well and what could have gone better? Questions like these establish a supportive atmosphere in which the employee can explore alternative approaches that might produce better results.
Here are 5 Steps to Carry Out a Feedback Session with Anyone You Work With:
1. Ask for Permission (May I give you feedback? Would it be ok to share something with you?)
2. State your observation (I noticed that when…you…/your…)
3. Check for understanding (Did I read your action/behaviour correctly?)
4. The effect on you/others (Because it made me/us/others feel…)
5. Alternative effective/changed behavior (Next time, can we be extra mindful when…)
You’re not always right
Although you have all the data gathered, you might not really have the complete picture. Give time for the employee to speak up and make him/her feel you also want to hear their side.
Negative feedback should not outweigh positive ones. Make sure to provide a balance of positive and negative feedback, otherwise, employees will distrust your feedback and it will become useless.
Avoid feedback overload
Identify 2 to 3 important points you want to give feedback on. Giving too much feedback may confuse the employee on what needs to be improved or changed.
At the end of the discussion, identify major points raised and discussed so that you both clearly understand what has been said and agreed upon. If necessary, arrange a follow-up meeting to review progress.
Based on findings, there are multiple benefits to giving praise and constructive feedback, if effectively carried out:
1. Boosts employee performance
2. Promotes self-reflection that encourages them to be flexible and creative.
3. Raises flags when things are going on the right track or for redirecting problem performance.
4. Fosters collaborative working environment
In any case, a closed loop feedback system is effective but it takes a lot of careful thought and practice to be successful in coaching and feedback sessions. Make sure the opportunity to follow-up with you is open. This tells you whether the change or improvements you set to accomplish is achieved or whether you need to revisit the follow-up action steps. By remembering these tips to effective employee feedback you’ll have a better engaged and productive workforce. The rewards earned from going through the sometimes difficult feedback sessions will make all the effort entirely worthwhile.
Do you have a story to share about giving and receiving feedback? Share in the comments below or email us.
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