Giving Feedback to Employees

By Cheryl Stein

Monster Business Coach

Many articles have been written on giving proper feedback. It is an essential management skill to be mastered and without feedback skills, you can never be considered a truly great leader. When business is going well, and people feel secure in their jobs, giving feedback properly is very important but now that the Canadian Business world is in the middle of an economic crisis, developing proper skills cannot be stressed enough.

People are really freaked out about their jobs, with very good reason. Most people know someone who is out of work and most people who are employed are worrying about whether or not they will stay employed. These stressed out workers need to be handled with kid gloves and knowing how to speak to them properly when you need to comment on their performance can really help them feel more secure.

This is not the time to yell and scream, this is not the time to seethe, this is the time to be really constructive in how you help the people in your organization learn and grow so that they stay committed to your business and will help you through this messy time.

Coming from a good place

The reason why we should be giving feedback is to help develop the skills of the people who work for us but according to Marshall Goldsmith who wrote the book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” (2007), feedback is usually used to prove that someone has done something wrong and doesn’t focus enough on building the better employee of the future. “Feedback can be employed by others to reinforce our feelings of failure, or at least remind us of them- and our reaction is rarely positive…More than anything, negative feedback shuts us down. We close ranks, turn into our shell, and shut the world out. Change does not happen in this environment. “ (p. 112) Slapping someone on the wrist for something that they have done is far less constructive than helping them figure out ways to do things better in the future. In these economic times, this forward thinking will help your employees feel valued and appreciated and will buy you some much needed loyalty in a time when loyalty is scarce.

Think Strategy

To be really constructive in the feedback that you are giving to your employees, take some time to plan how you want to deliver it. Consider the outcome that you are looking for. Is it better organizational skills, better leadership skills, better delegation, or some other aspect that you feel your employee needs to develop? How would that best be presented in a way that the employee hears the message and is able to change?

Feedback Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do pick your battles. Make sure that the issues that you are trying to correct are actually important ones. Take some extra time to assess whether this is one of those things on your perfect employee wish list that you must have or one that you would just like to have. Focus on the needs before the wants.
  • Don’t give feedback in the heat of the moment. We have much less control over the tone of our communication when we are upset. When possible, take the time to gain control before you let someone know that you aren’t pleased.
  • Do have solutions to help things be better. Criticism with no support leaves an employee nowhere. If you want them to do better, you need to tell them how.
  • Don’t be insincere. It is so important to be authentic in your delivery of feedback. If you truly want the best for your organization then you will speak to your employees with the intention of making things better. People will respond well to this but won’t respond well if they sense that you don’t really care.
  • Do be positive. When you believe that a person can succeed and you convey that belief to them, they will have a much greater chance of attaining goals than if you expect them to fail. People will usually become what people expect them to become. Expect great things and you will not be disappointed.

In this justifiably paranoid business climate, people are going to have a hard time hearing that they aren’t doing a good job. Have a heart and make feedback in your organization a thing that makes people move forward. It is one of the nicest things that you can do for them in this time of uncertainty and worry.

Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.