Ellen Warden, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
Nearly 70 percent of employees are asking for more frequent feedback from their bosses, but they’re not getting it. Why not?
I don’t have time. We have annual reviews. Our staff know what to work on. That employee is already a top performer and doesn’t need feedback. The employee might get defensive, and I don’t like conflict. Sound familiar? You might have Feedback Phobia.
Get the Feedback Facts
The fact is, people won’t get great at their jobs unless you do a great job of giving feedback. Relying on annual appraisals is like dieting only on your birthday and wondering why you’re not losing weight. Giving effective feedback is your responsibility as a manager and leader. Feedback, especially the personal, candid, type that employees crave, isn’t a matter of time; it’s a matter of prioritization.
The more conversations managers have with employees, the more engaged employees become. Short, regular, and frequent 1:1 meetings with each team member let you get to know them, find out what’s important, discuss progress and barriers, and build trusting relationships. Praise and acknowledgement help employees feel valued and appreciated for what they are accomplishing. Don’t take motivated employees for granted.
Even uncomfortable feedback is important to an employee’s growth, as well as the overall success of your firm. If employees are never told that they aren’t living up to expectations, how will they know there is a problem, and how will they know how to improve?
The heart of feedback phobia lies in not knowing how to give effective feedback. Vague or abstract feedback that is hard to understand can be as bad as no feedback at all.
Give the Feedback FAST:
- Frequent: Problems can recur and multiply, and successes be forgotten by the time annual review comes around. Daily or weekly connects don’t always need to be 30-minute meetings. Send a text, instant message, or email. Make a quick call or drop by an employee’s desk or office for a few minutes. Talk about progress on goals/development, things that are going well, areas of concern, and career management.
- Accurate: Focus on what you witnessed, not what you think Deal in facts, not vague impressions. You could say “The report I needed for my meeting today wasn’t done on time” but don’t automatically blame a lack of interest. Instead, talk about the impact of not receiving the report on time and how that affected others. Listen for why it wasn’t completed on time.
- Specific: State the specific behavior you observed, when it occurred, who was involved. “Your work needs to be improved” doesn’t tell an employee what needs to be corrected. Empty pats on the back like “You did a good job” don’t specify what should be continued. Better: “At the sales call yesterday your research was complete and you answered all the prospective client’s questions accurately and clearly. You put our firm in a good light. Thanks for your hard work.” Focus on performance, not personality. “You were waving your hands and yelling at the client at our meeting today” instead of “You can be a jerk.” Be specific about what performance should look like in the future. Create a dialogue. Be a partner in their success. Be sure to follow up as necessary.
- Timely: Praise or correct as issues arise. Don’t let small mistakes turn into big ones. Praising employees when you spot them doing a great job motivates them to “go the extra mile” on an ongoing basis. Don’t confuse timely with rushed, however. If you’re dealing with an emotionally charged event, wait a day or two (but never more than a week). Let your gut be your guide. Check your emotions and your non-verbal cues and find an appropriate time and place – even if it delays the session. Always criticize in private. Your default is to praise in public but keep in mind that some employees don’t like to be the center of attention.
Frequent feedback builds strong bonds with your employees. Transform feedback phobia into a new belief: “This is the best way to help my team members grow and develop.”