How to Give Feedback to Employees

Ways to improve business management

If you do not tell your employees what they are doing wrong, they might not get it right. But providing feedback to employees is not as simple as stating some obvious “do’s” and “don’ts.” If done properly, it can be motivating and inspiring. However, if done improperly, it can result in resentment, poor performance and deterioration of relationships.

Although each situation is different, as is every employer and employee, here are some practical suggestions for providing feedback:

  • Be prepared. Before you jump in with your comments, plan what you intend to say. Prepare for the meeting and anticipate potential reactions. Play out scenarios in your mind first. Conversely, if you let your emotions rule the day, the employee might tune you out. Should you feel the need, practice with a colleague or someone else.
  • Notwithstanding the above, the best time to give feedback about an incident is soon after it occurs. Once a significant amount of time has elapsed, people’s memory and interpretation of the events are likely to vary. Also, if you postpone the discussion, ill feelings may fester. No matter how difficult, it is usually best to address issues promptly, so you can quickly move on.
  • Make it a two-way street. Give the recipient a chance to answer your feedback with his or her own comments. Depending on the situation, you may ask the employee to speak first or to respond to your input. In any event, encourage a dialogue as opposed to a one-way sermon from on high.
  • Just the facts, ma’am. Try to focus on what actually happened as opposed to what you think may have happened or the reason for it. For instance, if an employee failed to complete a job on time, do not assume it is because the employee is lazy or is not committed to the firm. As explained above, give employees a chance to explain their side of the story.
  • Speak calmly and check your emotions at the door. The response to your feedback will often depend on the tenor of the conversation. If you fly off the handle, the discussion can quickly turn into a shouting match. After you have had your say, allow the employee an opportunity to gather his or her own thoughts and respond without interruption. Repeat in your own words what you believe the employee has said.
  • Finish on a positive note. When possible, wrap things up by putting a positive spin on matters. Explain that you have high expectations for the employee and have faith that he or she will improve. Point out the need to use the feedback as a learning tool.

Of course, there are no guarantees that this common-sense approach will work, but these ideas often prove to be helpful. Above all, if you perform your supervisory position responsibly and equitably, employees are more likely to respond in a positive manner.

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