Leonie Green, an employment lawyer and HR expert at the Corvus Group, offers seven tips for getting employee feedback right.
1. Make sure you actually give feedback
Too many bosses fail to give any or sufficient feedback in what amounts to a people leadership failure, according to Green.
“I have seen many instances of employees crying out for feedback in an environment that looks like there are lots of mechanisms for feedback,” she says.
This creates a situation where employee underperformance is not addressed and can lead to workers making assumptions – right or wrong – about the quality of their performance.
2. Be aware of the impact of social media
In a world of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, people are now accustomed to getting immediate responses to posts and their activities.
“The immediacy of that feedback means they’re now looking for the equivalent in their workplace,” says Green.
As a result, regular employee check-ins need to complement more formal annual performance reviews.
3. Understand different forms of feedback
Saying hello or goodbye to someone – or not greeting them – is an informal, and significant, form of feedback. Similarly, smiling or not smiling at a co-worker at the end of the day sends a message to them, intended or otherwise.
“So feedback is more than just what we give when we sit down with our people for a formal review,” Green says. “It’s everything else that happens outside those meetings as well.”
She adds that even saying “great job today” can make a difference.
4. Praise your standout performers
Green says there is often an assumption – and it is a dangerous one – that good performers know they are doing a good job.
“We all need positive feedback. Even those who are doing a really good job still need to hear that they’re on the mark.”
With these high achievers, the feedback should alert them to what is next for their careers, and how they can extend themselves further.
5. Ignore giving negative feedback at your peril
Giving employees negative feedback when it is justified is part of a leader’s job.
“A lot of managers put their head in the sand and don’t want to have that difficult conversation,” Green says. They put it off and the situation festers.
When tough appraisals are delivered, employees often take them to mean that they are heading for the exit. If, in fact, they are designed to get the worker to step up and improve their performance, make that clear. A manager should set clear expectations about what happens next.
6. Hold your ground in a hostile environment
After delivering negative feedback, Green says three actions are required. First, do not backpedal if you are confident that the criticism has been fair and reasonable. Second, test what the employee wants from the relationship and whether they desire further feedback as a means to improve performance. Third, make sure the person feels supported and understands what is required for them to get up to speed.
“There’s no point in dropping the bomb and then walking away,” Green advises.
7. Get the right mix of positive and constructive feedback
Green endorses renowned researcher Dr Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity, which suggests a ratio of 3-1 for positive versus constructive feedback. That is, for every piece of potentially tough feedback, deliver three affirming pieces of information about an employee’s work.
She concludes: “It’s about making sure you can clearly target the areas in which you want that person to improve, and not make them feel like they are failing everywhere.”
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Important: This article has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial or taxation situation or needs of any particular individual. Before acting on the information, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. Any information used in this article is for illustrative purposes only. Leonie Green and Dr Barbara Fredrickson are external and not members of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group of Companies (the Group) and the content or any view expressed by Leonie Green and Dr Barbara Fredrickson do not represent an endorsement, recommendation, guarantee or advice in regard to any matter. CBA, nor members of the Group accept any liability for losses or damage arising from any reliance on external parties, their products, services and material. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.