How to Conquer Your Feedback Fears

BY Kathy Crosett
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Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. But did you know that 69% of managers don’t feel comfortable communicating with employees in general? Employees are often promoted to management positions because they’re great at doing their job. Unfortunately, great job performance doesn’t always translate to great management performance. A new survey conducted by Harris Poll for Interact explains where managers fall short and several managers have weighed in on what to do about this problem in a variety of articles over the past couple of weeks.

Managers cited in an article by Russell Working in Ragan​.com point out that organizations often fail to train newly-​promoted employees on how to give feedback to their team members. For all too many of us, taking on a management position is akin to trial by fire. We learn on the job, through our mistakes, how to engage with and lead team members. If you’re a naturally quiet and solitary person, you may find the task of managing people to be a significant challenge. In these cases, take advantage of any general or company-​specific training programs your company offers.

The members on your team need both positive and negative feedback. The positive feedback is especially important when you’re working with younger employees. These folks are just starting out in their careers. They’re eager to make a good impression on you and the company. They don’t know if their work habits and efforts are succeeding unless you provide them with specific and positive feedback.

These sorts of interactions take time. Even if you’re overwhelmed with the non-​managerial aspects of your position, you still need to set aside time every day to consider who on your team needs a shout-​out for a job well done. The Harris Poll reveals that 20% of managers have a hard time recognizing employee achievement and 16% have trouble giving credit to a team member who came up with a good idea. Don’t let yourself become one of those managers.

Some managers also struggle with explaining what they expect regarding task completion (19%) or explaining changes within an organization (20%). This reticence may stem from a fear of public speaking or from general disorganization. Whatever the problem is, resolve to do better. You may find it easier to summarize what you want to say in a document or a set of slides that you can refer to as you’re talking. If you have a lot of information to share and you’re not certain your employees are taking in all of the details, follow up your in-​person meetings with an email. If all that doesn’t help, attend a few public speaking classes to build your confidence.

Besides their discomfort with direct employee communication, 37% of managers also dislike giving feedback that an employee might not view favorably.  There’s no getting around this issue. From time to time, you’ll have to talk with employees about negative performance issues. In these situations, you might want to practice what you’re going to say ahead of time. Be prepared for an emotional outburst. Your job is to stay calm and deliver the news. Unless you’re firing the person, you should give the employee reason for hope. Praise the tasks he’s been doing well. If you've suffered from a similar situation in the past, share your history with the employee and explain how you changed. At least 20% of managers aren't comfortable doing this, but if you can get past your ego, your employee may be truly grateful for the information. Above all, be clear about what you’ll expect for the future and how you’ll follow up.

Whether you are naturally a people person or not, you can be a good manager. Think about how you’d like to be treated by your manager. Provide both positive and negative feedback on a regular basis. This frequent interaction will give you confidence and make things easier when you need to have difficult conversations with team members. In the long run, increased feedback will also strengthen your team members’ commitment and loyalty to their jobs.