Tips For Giving Super Simple, Effective Feedback (Hint: It Doesn’t Involve Giving Gifts)
Tis the season… for year-end performance reviews. For many companies, it’s time for managers to sit down with employees to give them their yearly performance reviews, and both managers and employees are preparing themselves for the positive and the negative aspects that can surround these conversations.
Some companies have already established a healthy pattern of providing constructive feedback between managers and employees. When proper lines of communication and uplifting feedback cycles have been established, employees can grow to appreciate the feedback, and respond positively, benefiting the employee, manager, and overall company. For other companies, performance review season can be stressful and full of surprises, due to non-existent or damaging feedback strategies.
According to the Institute for Corporate Productivity, as cited here, nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have done away with annual ratings. This number shows evidence that, while conducting performance reviews has been a long-standing practice in corporations, many companies are opting out of this more traditional method of providing feedback.
Whether you’re under the traditional umbrella of formal, annual performance reviews, or already in a fine-tuned and well-oiled feedback system, it can be hard to know just how to give effective and constructive feedback. Whatever your situation, our tips for giving super simple, effective feedback apply.
Tips For Giving Super Simple, Effective Professional Feedback
Be honest and fact-based. And be straightforward. When evaluators give critical reviews, these reviews are more highly respected when criticism is given immediately than when it begins with praise, and ends with criticism. If you are too tentative, or sugarcoat the negative feedback, the employee will either not understand the gravity of the situation, or will sense that you are unsure, and not trust that you’re being fair.
Don’t assign characteristics to the employee. For example, instead of telling the employee that they’re lazy, give them an example of how their work seemed rushed and showed a lack of attention to detail. Ask them questions about it, and give them a chance to talk about it with you.
Don’t say things like “feedback is a gift”. This is patronizing. Critical feedback, while valuable, can still be difficult to receive. Be respectful of that when you deliver feedback.
Practice Active Listening
Giving constructive feedback begins with asking questions first before jumping to conclusions. Don’t go into a difficult conversation with high emotions, or with the intention of “winning”. Ask the employee about their behavior and give them a chance to talk about it. Express concern when delivering negative feedback. When the employee is discussing their behavior, show that you’re listening and actively trying to understand by summarizing and repeating what they’ve said back to them.
Encourage The Employee’s Involvement
Instead of telling an employee a strategy for change, work with them to come up with a plan. Then, ask them how you can support them as they make these changes. This, along with the other tips on this list, will help nurture a healthy pattern of feedback between managers and employees.
“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.” – Scudder N. Parker
Give Timely Feedback
Timely feedback is more likely to be remembered and taken seriously than feedback that happens long after the action in question. Whether or not your company is one that gives yearly performance reviews, or daily reviews, you can give timely, informal feedback. Giving ongoing, or project-based feedback is valuable; it shows an employee what characteristics are appreciated and not appreciated in the moment, giving them a chance to pivot, self-correct, and redeem themselves before anything becomes an ongoing problem. If you store up feedback for year-end reviews, it only results in surprised employees.
Know Your Audience
Before you give feedback, consider whether or not that employee is seasoned in receiving negative feedback, and tread lightly if they are not. Receiving criticism is a practice. When people ‘never fail’, they don’t know how to handle it when they do, and it can be devastating. The impact of criticism on an employee who’s never received it before can fall on deaf ears, with the employee ignoring or denying the criticism as a way of coping. If you suspect that an employee on your team has never received negative feedback, establish it off the bat by tactfully identifying small ways they can improve early on. Giving timely, project-based feedback can be a great way to establish this honest mode of communication in a non-threatening way.
Be Tactful & Empathetic
Understand the impact your feedback will have on the employee. If the feedback is serious or negative, give the feedback in private. Be respectful of when you give the feedback (i.e don’t wait until right before they give a big presentation). Give employees time to internalize and reflect on the feedback. Understand that no matter how much the feedback may be wanted, it can briefly affect confidence and self-esteem. If you’ve ever received constructive feedback before, you understand how it can sting. Empathize, and even share your experience with them to help them keep it in perspective. Don’t give yourself a power trip by making them wonder if their job is in jeopardy, if it isn’t.
Instead of using generic phrases like “Great job”, be specific in letting the employee know what exactly you were impressed by so that they understand what behavior they should repeat. Use specifics, saying things like “Great job getting everyone involved in that meeting”.
New HR systems like TinyPulse and Reflektive promote transparent sharing of feedback, and encourage more positive feedback. Companies like these offer ways to share input with employees and managers, and create kudos boards where positive feedback can be shared across departments or company-wide.
Professionals Want Constructive Feedback
It’s important to nurture a positive, open, and honest workplace environment where feedback is part of the company culture. If you’re a manager, remember that people genuinely want to know what they’re doing right, what they can do better, and how they can improve. If you’re consistently only providing good feedback, your employees will begin to react negatively to it, you can’t rely on praise alone or its impact will begin to diminish. Conversely, if you only provide criticism, your employees will feel as though they can’t to anything right, and will become discouraged and aimless, not knowing what behaviors will be rewarded. It’s easy to shy away from giving feedback, especially when it’s negative, so it’s important that management is trained right away on how to have these conversations comfortably.