Best Ways to Give Feedback to Your Employees
An organization is like a machine and for it to work smoothly, all parts need to function at optimal levels. When a machine fails to do its job, some hit it out of frustration while others make sure every part is well-oiled. A great leader will always opt for the latter through constructive criticism that allows employees to grow. Without feedback, there is no long-term progress.
Our earliest memories of formal feedback are probably parent-teacher meetings at school. The report card would analyze everything from our grades to personalities. We became familiar with the reproach of a red pen. However, feedback in the workplace is a bit more complicated than using a red pen. Here are a few things you should keep in mind while giving feedback to your employees:
- Be professional
- Listen to your employees
- Ditch the feedback sandwich
- Be specific
- Gauge their reaction
- Ask for feedback
Let’s dive into them to understand the art of giving feedback in the workplace:
Feedback doesn’t mean raising your voice for emphasis or undermining the other person. Go easy on your employees and speak to them calmly. Try to keep the conversation private so they don’t feel humiliated or react under pressure. You may have a different equation with each member of the team. Use that rapport to make them feel comfortable before sharing your feedback. This will preserve your working relationship. Think of it as carrying a ceramic bowl. Move too fast and you might slip or crash into a wall, breaking the bowl. Move carefully, so you and the bowl reach the destination without any damage.
Listen to your employees
Feedback is a two-way street and listening is as important as being heard. When you give feedback to your employees, don’t expect complete silence on their part. You may have derived a certain conclusion from their behavior without knowing the whole story. Let them explain themselves. Both parties should be allowed to express how they feel and arrive at a mutual conclusion to avoid further miscommunication. Don't let it become a lecture on what they are doing wrong and the things they need to work on. Encourage a dialogue and validate their opinions and feelings.
Ditch the feedback sandwich
Feedback sandwich is a popular way of giving feedback by wrapping constructive criticism within praise or positive feedback. While this is an easier way of sharing negative feedback as it tends to cushion the blow, it can be confusing for the recipient. Some may see it as a minor inconvenience and not pay too much attention to the actual feedback. Another drawback with this method is that after a few instances, employees foresee the criticism and go “What did I do now?”. Instead of manipulating them, be direct and offer to help them come to terms with it.
Don’t give feedback for the sake of it. When you wait for quarterly reviews for a feedback session, you may find yourself building on scraps. There need not be a big list of things to discuss with each employee. Each round of feedback is supposed to help them grow so don’t be surprised if after a year, your list isn’t as long. Every person is unique and there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to the art of giving feedback. It’s not necessary that all employees will receive the same amount of feedback.
Gauge their reaction
Being told that you’re not doing something right is not easy. Your employees put a lot of time and effort into trying to do something right. At times, they may feel disappointed in themselves. If at any point you feel they are getting emotional about something, take a break. Lighten the mood or offer them some water. Reassure them that this session is not to berate them or merely point out their flaws, but to offer constructive criticism and support their growth by trying to understand them.
Ask for feedback
An oft ignored part of the process, receiving feedback is as important as giving feedback. Great leaders thrive on serving their employees well, which is impossible without understanding their point of view. Servant leadership is dependent on empathy as leaders try to develop a deeper understanding of their employees. Such leaders don’t shy away from difficult conversations but conduct them with humility and empathy. When you ask your employees for feedback, not only does it empower them, but also gives you an insight into what your employees are expecting. This sets the foundation for a healthy professional relationship.
What’s your got-to tip for giving feedback? Tell us in the comments.