Giving feedback is one of the most difficult parts of being a manager. It can be hard to find the right words, and it can be even harder to know if you're doing a good job with your employees.
The truth is, giving employee feedback is undoubtedly one of the most critical parts of any manager's job. On one hand, if you don't provide feedback, how will your employees know what aspects to work on and develop? On the other, incorrect feedback or even correct feedback communicated incorrectly can do more harm than good.
This blog post discusses some simple but effective steps for giving great feedback as a manager.
Have a specific goal for the feedback
Be clear with yourself and your employee on the objective of the feedback. Is this for the year end review? Or is this part of the bi-weekly just-in-time feedback? Was there an out of the ordinary event (affecting the organization/team/employee positively or negatively) that warrants a special out-of-cycle feedback session?
If you don't have a specific goal in mind, you may not be as effective in communicating the feedback.
Keep it constructive, not personal
One of the common mistakes that new managers make when delivering feedback is to make personal attacks albeit unknowingly. When this happens, not only is this demotivating for the employee but it also highlights the manager's lack of professionalism & maturity.
To avoid this mistake, make a conscious effort to include only constructive feedback with no personal attacks or put-downs. Remember that you and your employees are playing on the same side and there is always a way to give feedback without attacking their personality.
Be mindful of your tone - Be supportive and understanding, not condescending or angry
Your tone and how you communicate with your employees is critical because it can either motivate or demoralize them. Always make sure that you are being respectful so as to avoid burning the bridge between yourself and your employee.
Your employee will be much more receptive to feedback if you are being respectful with them in a nonjudgmental way.
No matter what the feedback, a supportive tone from the manager goes a long way. If you're struggling with how to do this, try a few of these tips:
- Make sure your employee doesn't feel like they are on trial
- Avoid being confrontational
- Listen and be receptive before you respond. Ask questions when necessary. This will help ensure that you understand where the employee is and also conveys to the employee that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and their point of view
Know when to use the sandwich technique
The sandwich technique of providing feedback is a controversial way to structure feedback for an employee. Knowing when to bring this technique to bear and when to stay away from it can help the manager balance employee trust, feelings and feedback.
What is the sandwich technique?
The sandwich technique of providing feedback is to Start off with something positive, then deliver your constructive criticism and finish by reaffirming that you value them as a person and employee.
Example of the sandwich feedback technique
In the example, "I appreciate that you are always on time for meetings," then give feedback such as "however I would like to see more of your ideas in presentations." Finish with something positive like, "you're a great team player and employee who is willing to go above and beyond!"
The sandwich approach of providing employee feedback leaves the employee feeling much better than if they only heard the criticism without any positives.
The sandwich technique is sometimes referred to as the "honey and vinegar" approach because it combines positive feedback (sweet like honey) with constructive criticism (sour like vinegar).
Provide examples of how to improve performance and provide an action plan for that improvement
This step is an essential part of providing employee feedback as it provides clarity and a clear path for the employee on what to do next.
Providing an action plan often helps your employees see that you are being helpful rather than blaming them for their areas of improvement or something they did wrong. It also gives them concrete things to work on and get better at in order to meet or exceed the manager's expectations and achieve their professional goals.
Things you can include in the action plan
- Provide an employee with detailed notes on the areas of improvement
- Offer advice and tips for how they can work towards the goal, or what steps they could take in order to achieve it more effectively.
- Identify specific technical or behavioral training for the employee depending on the identified area(s) of improvement
The action plan MUST be tailored to each individual employee and their needs. You want the employees to realize that you are giving them personalized attention, not just following some generic template or list that doesn't take into account what they need or where they are in their professional performance journey.
Provide an opportunity for clarification and follow up questions
Sometimes feedback can be unclear or difficult for the employee to understand.
If you want to help your employees develop into high-performing employees, it is important that they ask questions. This will allow them to understand the feedback you are giving them and clarify where they might have misunderstood or agree/disagree with the feedback.
Therefore, it is important that you give the employee an opportunity to get clarification and ask follow-up questions before you wind down the feedback meeting. If there are still things left unanswered or if you sense that the employee is not comfortable asking questions then and there, then consider setting another meeting with them afterward in order to give them more time and space for clarity.
Conclude the feedback session properly
At the end of each feedback session, it is important that you summarize what was discussed. This will help the employee to remember your points and raise questions in any follow-up meetings if they need clarifications. If your organization requires you to enter your feedback in any HRIS system, do so promptly at the end of the meeting.
Here are few additional tips on how to effectively conclude a feedback session
- Provide the employee with a clear understanding of what they need to do next. This will help them prioritize and move forward on any actions necessary. If you have promised any action items during the discussion, reiterate those as well.
- Recap all points from feedback that was discussed during the meeting, including positive notes and areas for improvement
- Give praise where it is well deserved! Be sure to give the employee clear and specific examples of what they are doing well or any positive feedback you want to share with them
- Reinforce that the meeting is over, but if there are still points or questions then it's ok for them to contact you about this in the future. However, do not leave open-ended promises as a follow-up action
- Tie-down any procedural actions that your organization requires such as entering the feedback in any official HRIS system
- If any follow-up meetings are required, make sure to set those promptly
If you want happy, productive employees who are motivated to do their best work and exceed your expectations then it's important that you provide them with timely, constructive feedback. Feedback is a key ingredient in developing a high-performing employee because it helps them understand what areas they're excelling or struggling with so they can improve upon those deficiencies. In this article, we covered important facets for managers to give feedback that will help both the manager and the employee be more successful at improving employee, team, and organization performance.