“Employees are more likely to learn and grow when they receive immediate feedback that is specific, targeted at their development and able to be put into practice right away.”
– Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report
Giving feedback – be it good or bad – can be very challenging. If we put ourselves in a real situation, imagine a person at work who is facing a hard time figuring out his / her work and despite all the effort, he / she is unable to attend to the task effectively. What if you can get involved in this situation and advise him / her on better options to help figure out where he/she got it wrong? What is keeping you from doing that? Are you worried that this will demotivate the employee or this will hurt his / her self-esteem? Then, you are in need of some tips.
How do we do this?
- It is always good to have an in-person conversation.
- Do not make it personal (especially in the business context, you have to address professional concerns without dragging in personal matters).
- Do not cloud your message with contradictory statements.
- Your tone matters, a LOT, especially when delivering a negative message.
When do we do this?
- Make sure you give feedback relating to a given observation as soon as possible, given that you have the emotional capacity to be ‘constructive’ with empathy (if you are furious on something that has happened, it is not the best time to give feedback, as anger might cloud your judgement).
- Feedback on ongoing work can and better be given regularly (there is no rule – unless you make one – stating that feedback can only be given at the appraisal discussion).
- Feedback can not only be given not when things are going wrong. People love to hear encouraging, constructive feedback on where they did well, regardless of the feedback being business critical or not (the next time your subordinate switches off the light when leaving the room, praise it).
You need to be very clear on the fact that giving feedback is a very sensitive topic. You should have a clear understanding on your expectation from giving feedback. When it comes to the feedback you are giving, it needs to be fact-based and helpful for both you (to realise your expectations) and the receiver (to correct a weak point or to further develop self). You should also take your feedback seriously as much as you want the receiver to take it seriously.
When you are giving feedback to someone – especially if you expect disagreement or emotion – be open to receive feedback from him / her, as your decisions might not be accurate or unbiased without knowing his / her story. Be open to suggestions and even to receive critical feedback about yourself. Further, assure that you will be supporting him / her with everything that is in your capacity. Draw from real life examples (maybe of your own) if you need to prove a point but make sure that you do not let him / her feel that you are trying to forcibly convince him / her.
Try to follow all these steps to make sure that you do not negatively affect their performance or discourage them. On top of everything, remember that you are dealing with humans with emotions. Good feedback given at the right time can tremendously improve performance and strengthen the relationships between and motivation of your team.