When you’re running a team, feedback is important. Frequent feedback lets team members know how their work is being perceived, both positively and negatively, and whether they are on the right track with their work.
There are plenty of managers who hate giving feedback. In their view, if there isn’t anything wrong with someone’s performance, there’s nothing to be said. To many an employee however, silence is deadly. Unless they have an amazing sense of self-confidence, most employees will take silence as meaning there’s nothing wrong but that there is also nothing good about their performance. In fact, the very idea of receiving feedback can be nerve-wracking for some who have had past experiences where the word “feedback” was synonymous with “ripping a person to shreds”. Even the word feedback can make employees defensive.
From a management point of view, it’s important to provide both positive and negative feedback on a regular basis. It’s more likely to be heard and taken on board than if it’s a harsh reprimand every three months.
What constitutes a regular basis for feedback?
This is really up to the team but remember that feedback doesn’t necessarily mean a formal sit down review, with notes going into a personnel file. Feedback can be as informal as a quick “check in” with each team member on a weekly basis, just to make sure there is nothing brewing on the horizon in their world. Catching a pot before it boils over means a lot less mess to clean up.
Team members have to hear feedback for it to work. We’re not talking about physically hearing it. We are referring to whether or not the employee is really listening and taking it in. This might sound obvious but a bad delivery when the employee isn’t at all receptive can mean that the feedback is of little use to the employee, at best, or is totally misunderstood, at worst. This is why frequency matters. If employees are used to getting regular feedback, they are more likely to a) not be concerned or nervous when you come to give it and b) will be more likely to hear it.
What is badly delivered feedback?
- When only negative feedback is given, without anything positive to temper the message.
- When feedback is delivered in a way that results in the employee feeling unsafe or even threatened. If the feedback is designed to “take them down a notch” instead of helping the employee to grow in their position, it’s not appropriate.
- When the manager is uncomfortable giving feedback, and out of fear of a negative reaction, isn’t clear about what he/she is trying to communicate.
- When the feedback is too general. This just results in confusion or doesn’t provide any usable, actionable information.
Five essentials when giving feedback
- Be kind.
- Be specific.
- Be timely. Providing feedback on a transaction that didn’t go too smoothly weeks after it happened isn’t really helpful.
- Be clear.
- Make it a conversation. Allowing the employee to respond and discuss the feedback openly is important. Listening is a two-way street and you might learn something you didn’t know too.
As a manager, your feedback will be more readily taken on board if you have these qualities: authority, credibility and trustworthiness.
Authority – if you are the right person to be giving feedback within the organizational structure, you are more likely to be heard. Peer-to-peer feedback can backfire since most people on a team see themselves as being equal.
Credibility – if you’re a new manager, whether new to the team or to the industry, you won’t have much credibility with employees, nor will your feedback.
Trustworthiness – this loops back to the point about safety. Feedback, given in the right circumstances, builds trust. If an employee feels that the feedback was given inappropriately, they won’t take it on board.
Feedback is a critical management tool to ensure that employees are happy and successful in their roles: their success reflects on you, so it’s in your interest to make sure it happens.