The way you give feedback is the determining reason that influences employees’ morale and confidence, as well as their ability to improve performance. Moreover, the feedback from managers affects whether employees want to continue working for the company or, on the contrary, start looking for a new job. In this article, we will look at the rules for providing effective feedback and dispel a myth about which method is the best (in fact, it’s not).
You Need to Know This
Before Giving Feedback…
The 2018 Gallup Workplace Experiences Panel Survey shows that 80% of employees who get negative feedback were passively or actively looking for a new job, and 90% were disengaged. Hard to believe, but the same is true for positive feedback.
After getting it, almost 42% of employees were looking for a new job, and 50% were not engaged. As feedback should motivate employees to do better work and engage them, many managers failed to deliver effective feedback.
Three Important Questions
So why do employees perceive negatively even positive feedback, not to mention critical? The point is there are 3 defensive mechanisms we all use to protect ourselves from the pain of being criticized. When we get feedback, we look at it through the lens of three questions:
Is this feedback correct? We verify if it’s reality-based, and our natural tendency is to believe that negative feedback is untrue.
Who is giving this feedback? We check what kind of relationship we have with the person who gives us feedback and tend to dismiss it if we don’t trust this person.
What does it tell me about me? If feedback attacks our beliefs about who we are and our identity, it is painful to accept this feedback, so we will probably not do it.
Giving Effective Feedback
When we give feedback, we have to remember that we have to pass through these defensive mechanisms so that the employee will take the feedback into account and use it to improve their performance.
The Three Rules
- To make them believe that the feedback is correct, be specific:
Recognize and review their accomplishment using phrases like “I noticed that you did this specific thing, and it made this difference for the team results…”, and “One of your strengths is managing conflicts within the team. For example, last week during brainstorm session you did…”, “Last month you said that you have a goal to increase sales by 5%. By the end of this month, you have achieved 2% growth. Here are the things I noticed you did…”.
- To build trust, show that your role is to help, not to blame:
If you don’t have trustful relationships with your employees, any special method of giving feedback doesn’t work, including the popular «feedback sandwich». Just imagine you are eating a sandwich with two pieces of bread but with a filling made of dirt.
Definitely, you won’t say, «Yes, it’s dirty inside, but the bread is delicious!». The same with positive-negative-positive feedback. So don’t rely on special methods. Instead, work on building trusting relationships with your employees.
In order to do this, make feedback sessions regular and private, and use phrases like “How do you think you can improve this situation?”, “What help do you need from me to improve this?”, “How do you think what SMART goals you can set to improve this next month?”.
- To avoid attacking their identity, be descriptive rather than evaluative.
Do not label your employees as lazy, unreliable, irresponsible, etc. Such wording will not encourage them to respect you and to be involved in the work. To avoid evaluative judgments about their character or motives, use “I” statements. For instance, you can say, “I felt upset when you did this”, instead of “You were acting unprofessionally…”.
To sum up, show your employees that you are here not to criticize them, but to help them grow and be proud of their achievements. Keep your feedback specific, descriptive, and regular. And also remember: money brings them to the job, but something different keeps them there. For example, the opportunity to develop their mastery thanks to effective feedback from their manager.
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