One of the toughest things to do as a manager is to give honest feedback to your staff. From the employee’s point of view, many people would generally rather walk over hot coals than have “a quick chat with the boss”. It’s never an easy thing to do, for either party.
There’s a reason for this. Neuroscientists believe our brains view criticism as a threat to our survival, and therefore rather than accepting it or considering it logically, our most basic instinct is to reject it so that we protect our standing in the social order. There’s pretty powerful and quite basic stuff going on in the way we give and interpret feedback.
But here’s something to make you think. Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between management being able giving honest feedback and positive employee engagement. It seems that just telling people what they “want” to hear, rather than what they “need” to hear, doesn’t make for a happy employee in the long term. People need to be motivated, inspired and uplifted by their leaders and also to be encouraged to keep doing better and better. Without feedback, it’s very hard to keep improving and to keep developing independently.
The key is the manner in which feedback is delivered, otherwise it can indeed be a double-edged sword. You don’t want your employees to feel as though you are punishing them, as this can cause lingering anger and resentment and can demotivate the employee in the long term. It’s a fine balance to strike.
One helpful way of thinking about giving honest feedback is that it ultimately implies you believe the employee is capable of doing more, which shows your belief in their talents and abilities. Your role is to guide and lead and if you are not being honest, then you aren’t doing your job properly to bring out the best in them. The four main reasons you should be giving feedback are; from concern or commitment; out of a sense of responsibility; to guide and mentor or to support and enhance
So how do you do it well? Here are some tips for delivering effective feedback and getting the most from your employees:
- Don’t sit on it. You need to give feedback as soon as is practical and possible, particularly if a specific incident has happened that needs to be sorted out. Ideally never wait more than 24 hours if it’s something important. Also people remember things differently as time elapses which makes it more difficult to get to the nub of what actually happened.
- Keep a lid on your emotions. If at all possible, remember it’s a business situation. Make sure you listen to the employee’s response and repeat it back to ensure you understand what his or her perspective involves. Remember, everything has two sides and there may be well-meaning reasons why an employee has made a poor choice.
- Keep it factual. Make sure you’re well prepared beforehand with all the facts to hand, as you understand them, and go through them with the employee to check you’re thoroughly appraised of the situation. Give them a chance to explain and then outline the consequences of the decisions they made.
- Give them their say. If the employee acknowledges the feedback and accepts they may have to make some changes next time, then it’s an opportunity to give them credit for their insight. Also it allows you to get a handle on whether they need further coaching and training if they are making errors of judgement due to a lack of experience.
- Include something constructive. Your job is to inspire and act as a mentor as well as point out mistakes and poor performance, so include suggestions as to how to act differently next time and try to find something positive from the meeting to end on.
- It gets easier with practice. The more you do give honest feedback, the better you get at it, like anything in life. Your employees won’t respect someone who’s a pushover.