Effective Feedback for Employees

BY Kathy Crosett
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Is the feedback you’re giving to your employees making any difference at all? I’m not talking about praise feedback, which is not the most effective feedback for employees since it doesn't urge them to make necessary changes for their own betterment. 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 provide effective feedback for employees, you need to plan ahead. You should write down data points so that you can reference them easily when you talk with your team member. Make sure to allocate plenty of time for this one-​on-​one. If past experience tells you this employee will react emotionally to your feedback, set your meeting time near the end of the day so that it doesn't negatively affect their work performance for much of the work day. Also, be respectful of the employee’s time and don’t run over the meeting's allotted time.

Those details are the ones that are easy to attend to. The active conversation is what most managers struggle actually with. When providing effective feedback for employees, 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,’ will stir up an emotional reaction in your employee. They stop listening almost immediately. Instead, their thoughts will jump to worries, often about getting losing their job. Sure, they see your mouth moving, but they’re not taking in any of the feedback you’re offering when the panic in their own mind is so much louder.

Effective Feedback for Employees

To deliver effective feedback for employees, keep your tone even. Don’t bring up the fact that you’ve already covered the topic at hand with the employee in the past. They are well aware of previous talks you’ve had with them. Instead, 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 on. After that, explain how their failure to do things properly impacted their co-​workers so that they can see how important it is that they make a change.

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.