A Quick Refresher on Giving Feedback
As a supervisor during the recent review cycle, were you uncomfortable addressing your employees’ poor performance? Did you cringe when you needed to have a conversation with someone about his or her ineffective or unproductive work practices? Did you try to avoid dealing with others’ negative work behaviors? Did it feel forced to give honest, yet constructive feedback?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you are not alone! We surveyed more than 850 supervisors and aspiring supervisors and found that many people, regardless of supervisory experience, feel the same way.
Understandably, people struggle with giving constructive feedback to others. Supervisors tend to feel uncomfortable advising their employees on how to improve their performance, even if they are already high performers.
If supervisors have a hard time providing feedback, why should they do it? Why is feedback SO important? As you may know, feedback is one aspect of employee engagement. Engagement is one of many important factors that the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) examines for the Federal workforce. Part of having engaged employees is ensuring they are provided with opportunities for growth and development. Feedback, specifically positive and constructive feedback, has been shown to improve job performance.
So, here are three feedback principles to keep in mind, and hopefully, this is a good refresher for your next feedback conversation. (Hint – you should be giving feedback frequently throughout the year, not just during performance reviews.)
Three Feedback Principles
- Positive intentions – The spirit in which you approach providing feedback will make a big difference in whether it is effective. Your goal for providing the feedback must be to help the person improve. If your intention is genuine, and you are able to convey this to the employee, there’s a good chance your feedback will be effective. Remember, the importance of nonverbal cues in communicating positive vibes!
- Specific and timely – Your feedback must be based on work performance, not the person or their personality. Be sure to word your feedback that way. Identify the specifics of what went wrong or could be improved and discuss your expectations for how his/her behavior should change. If you are giving positive feedback, simply saying “good job” is not enough. Be specific about the behaviors you observed.
Further, give the feedback while the individual can act on it. Waiting until the end of the week, or worst yet, the annual performance review doesn’t help the person make mid-course corrections. Coaching the individual in the moment leads to better business outcomes and individual performance. Remember, effective supervisors discuss both positive performance and areas for improvement frequently with their employees.
- Open Two-Way Communication – Feedback discussions can result in significant learning for both you and the employee. Create a space in which the employee is open to what you are saying. Listen to the employee and give him an opportunity to respond. Maybe the employee is running into obstacles, or maybe the employee doesn’t have the right tools or systems to do the work. Once you understand the reasons behind the performance issue, you can work to minimize or remove the obstacles. This approach will go a long way towards building the relationship and building a culture of feedback.
I hope these tips serve as good reminders for giving feedback to others. How will you put these tips into action? Can you try them with a friend or family member? Consider doing a role play before you have a performance feedback conversation. Or, maybe change your approach and then spend 5-10 minutes reflecting or journaling on how it went.