Giving feedback is hard, a lot of us have an aversion to it. Partly because we have had some bad experiences getting feedback ourselves, partly because we don’t like to give other bad news and almost certainly because we want people to like us. Giving feedback doesn’t have to be unpleasant. We can take a few steps to make a conscious effort to give effective feedback. These 5 tips for giving great employee feedback can make the conversation a pleasant one.
Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #1 – Focus on Improvement, Not Criticism
When we’re giving feedback, we want to build people up, not tear them down. The Sandwich Method is a really effective technique. Start the feedback with something positive, follow it with the area that needs improvement, then end with something positive. This structure helps keep our feedback focused on improvement, not just the deficiencies. There are times when the sandwich method isn’t always appropriate. Usually, there is at least one positive things to build on when giving feedback.
Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #2 – Choose the Right Venue
Where we give feedback is just as important as the feedback we give. It’s important to make a conscious decision whether to do it in public or private. If you have to talk about an individual’s areas of improvement, your office might be the best choice. Recognizing a team member for excellent performance usually works best in front of the rest of the team. In the Air Force, we had a general rule of praise in public, punish in private. This works pretty well in most situations, but there are times that something negative might have to be discussed publicly. In a safety or security situation, it may be important to get critical information out quickly to the whole team in public to stabilize the situation.
Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #3 – Focus on Expectations
Did the employee meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? This step gives you a chance to see if you communicated the expectation clearly. Realizing the expectation wasn’t clear creates a whole different conversation. You may have different opinions on how clearly the expectation was communicated, but that can be part of the discussion as well. If the expectation is set clearly and communicated, now it’s a discussion of how well the expectation was met. Here’s a chance to build on the positive achievements and then talk about how to address what fell short.
Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #4 – Don’t Make it Personal
Address the behavior, not the individual. Although we might feel personally hurt or disrespected, we don’t want to attack them personally. Don’t tie their value as a human being to their performance. When we insult people or judge them, they tune out the important feedback we have for them. Even in cases where someone has done something egregiously bad, if we’re trying to improve them, insults and judgment don’t help. Stick to the behavior and not the person.
Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #5 – Have a Plan Going Forward
What will we take going forward to improve? If this was good news, what will we do to continue excellent performance and help it spread throughout the team? Don’t feel like you need to build this plan all by yourself. You can use this as an opportunity for leadership development. Give the team member an opportunity to develop their own improvement plan. This will keep them invested in their own growth and also help them get a better idea of the big picture.
I presented these 5 tips like you’re a manager giving feedback to one of your team members, but they apply just as well if you have to give feedback to a peer or even your boss. Telling your boss that their idea may not be the best approach is difficult, but these 5 tips can give you a structure to do it diplomatically. Apply these tips next time you have to give someone feedback on a task or project and see if that makes the experience more positive for both of you.