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Tips & Guidelines for Giving Effective Employee Feedback
Giving feedback to others in your workplace may seem like a tricky task, but becoming adept at offering both praise and constructive criticism doesn’t have to remain a pain point for you and your employees. Delivering constructive criticism isn’t always comfortable, but it is part of the responsibilities involved in people management, meaning it is unavoidable no matter how difficult it may seem.
One of the key objectives for any business leader is to yield the most productivity as possible from employees, and this can only be done when those employees are receiving feedback on their work efforts in a timely and helpful manner. The problem is, many leaders today have never received the proper training necessary in giving constructive and helpful feedback, and are thus much more reluctant to deliver any sort of feedback. The key is to recognize feedback not as a negative, but rather an opportunity to provide your employees with the necessary information they need to adjust their performance and improve wherever necessary.
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Tips for Giving Feedback
Feedback should be designed to be constructive, not corrosive. In order to provide feedback to your employees in a constructive manner that encourages them to improve, consider the following tips and guidelines:
Use a Professional Tone
Not all employee slip ups will keep you calm and collected, and while a team member’s carelessness or poor judgment may cause you to get upset, delivering that feedback when angry will do nothing to remedy the situation. Before giving feedback, ensure your temper is in check and that you are calm enough to deliver it in a careful and measured way. Employees are much less likely to be open to criticism if the meeting opens with blaming or shouting.
Focus on the Facts
While your own frustrations should be acknowledged, the point of feedback is to focus on addressing the problem itself.
For example, if an employee is consistently missing their deadlines, rather than telling them about how you’re sick of their behaviour, spell out calmly how their actions are negatively impacting the team as a whole.
Remain critical, but emphasize the facts with specific examples rather than your own feelings. Then, offer action-oriented suggestions to help the employee solve the issue.
Watch Your Words
More often than not, your employees are going to know when they have made a major mistake. When communicating about how to best address it, ensure you are not using demoralizing statements that call the employee’s intelligence or capabilities into question. They don’t need any help feeling embarrassed about their error, so the language you use when addressing it needs to be carefully thought out.
Aim to avoid subjective statements and assessments (e.g. “You’re not showing enough passion about your work”), or sweeping generalizations (e.g. “You never contribute creatively during team brainstorming sessions”).
Ignoring or avoiding serious situations or minimizing the impact are easy outs for having difficult conversations with your employees. But, withholding constructive criticism actually harms your underperforming employees even further, since it is depriving them of the key information they could be using to improve in their work.
When delivering negative feedback, aim to be professional and factual but still candid in what you are saying, stating the specifics in a tactful yet straightforward way. Just as you should avoid being overly harsh and demoralizing, you cannot afford to sugar-coat the harsher truths.
Make it a Two-Way Conversation
Feedback sessions do not have to be a lecture-style discussion of an employee’s behaviour. Regardless of the type of feedback you are giving, ensure you are receptive to what the employee has to say as well. Give them the opportunity to explain their perspective of their own actions and behaviours.
When an employee feels comfortable to openly converse with their leader, they are much more likely to own up to shortcomings and ask for help. In addition, a two-way discussion presents the opportunity for an employee to bring your attention to any legitimate extenuating circumstances you otherwise might not have been aware of.
Focus on Solutions
Talking through the issue at hand is important, but the ultimate objective of giving feedback is to ensure that if an issue exists, it is rectified as swiftly as possible.
Have possible solutions worked out for assisting the individual in their efforts to improve, and discuss them with the employee openly. Whether you need to provide them with additional training, offer more frequent check-ins on their progress and direction, or work out the kinks in a flawed system, do whatever you can to best help the employee get back on track and remedy their issue.
Balance Criticism with Praise
A skill any and all leaders need to have is knowing how and when to provide criticism. But this can be a slippery slope for inexperienced or untrained managers, with many running the risk of transforming into leaders who only comment when employees slip up.
Ensure you are offering kudos for good work consistently, and recognizing both publicly and privately the accomplishments of your employees. This is an excellent way to boost their morale, reinforce positive behavior, and develop a good rapport with your team members that will make the difficult conversations easier to manage.
At its core, employee feedback is about past behavior, delivered in the present, which has the potential to influence an employee’s future performance. Surprisingly, very little managers have actually received the proper training in giving feedback the right way, though the majority state that they want to improve in how they give feedback.
Guidelines for Giving Feedback
We have already discussed several key tips to delivering feedback, both positive and negative. Now, let’s have a look at some more general guidelines that you should keep in mind when planning out your feedback strategy moving forward:
- Positive feedback can be offered in public and/or private. It is recommended however, that if planning to provide even positive feedback in public, that the employee doesn’t feel uncomfortable – know your audience. Negative feedback, however, should only be given in private.
- Feedback needs to be delivered in a timely manner. A best practice is to give it as close as possible to the occurrence, behavior, or issue that you intend to address.
- Remain clear, thoughtful, and respectful regardless of the nature of the feedback or your personal sentiments about the employee. Ensure everything you say is accurate, specific, and limited only to the behavior you are intending to address and remedy.
- Limit your feedback to areas that the employee has the ability to change. Providing feedback that is irrelevant or unchangeable will be rejected, and can be detrimental.
- Use the word “I”, rather than “we”. Say “I observed you…”, rather than “we observed you…”.
- Remain non-judgmental, and never personalize your feedback. Focus only on the behavior you want to address, and not on the qualities of the person you are giving feedback to.
- Avoid “over-dumping”. Oftentimes, a receptive employee only needs one behavioral example to recognize the issue and understand where they need to improve.
- Always identify next steps. A feedback session with no clear action plan is demoralizing, and erodes the opportunity for improvement into a discouraging lecture.
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