How to Avoid Destructive Engagement When Delivering Feedback

by | 2 minute read

Is the feedback you’re giving to employees making any difference? I’m not talking about praise feedback. Managers don’t usually have trouble with that. The bigger challenge is learning how to give feedback that results in improved work performance or better team participation.

Why Feedback Fails

Feedback fails when you don’t deliver it properly. To get the most out of a feedback session, you need to plan ahead. Write down data points so you can reference them easily when you talk with your team member. Allocate plenty of time. If past experience tells you this employee will react emotionally to your feedback, set your meeting time near the end of the day. Be respectful of the employee’s time and don’t run over.

Those details are easy to attend to. The active conversation is what most managers struggle with. You want to make your point, but you can’t browbeat the employee. If you interact through ‘destructive engagement,’ a phrase coined by Peter Dean, you risk having the feedback session backfire. Raising your voice and saying things like, ‘we’ve been over this before,’ stir up an emotional reaction in your employee. They stop listening almost immediately. Their thoughts jump to worries, often about getting fired.  Sure, they see your mouth moving, but they’re not taking in any of the feedback you’re offering.

Successful Feedback

To effectively deliver feedback, keep your tone even. Don’t bring up the fact that you’ve already covered the topic with the employee. They are well aware of previous talks you’ve had with them. Calmly explain that you need for them to do a better job — whether it’s processing payroll or testing software. Give them specific examples of what they need to improve. Explain how their failure to do things properly impacted their co-workers.

Then give them a chance to describe the situation from their perspective. Pay attention to what you hear. Is there a process problem you can help solve for them? Is there a culture problem in the office that’s hindering their productivity? Do they need more training?

You may be able to offer some assistance, but the bottom line is that the employee must accept responsibility and accountability for their failed performance. Ask them for suggestions on how they will prevent the problem from happening in the future.

After you both agree on a solution, ask your team member what you can do to help. Then follow up regularly to keep them on track.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.