Employee feedback is one of the most powerful tools available to managers. By telling your employees how well they’re performing and what they could be doing to be even more effective, they can continue to develop new skills and become better in their roles.
Despite this, a number of managers refrain from giving any feedback—even positive praise. Overall, 65% of employees say they don’t receive enough feedback from their managers. And they’re not just fishing for compliments; studies show that workers actually prefer receiving negative feedback over praises. While that might seem surprising, one can see their thought process: In order to set goals moving forward, employees need to know where they have room to grow.
If you’re not keen on being the bearer of bad news, you’re not alone. Most managers aren’t too excited about the idea of telling their teams what they’re doing wrong. But if you want to continue to grow your team and accomplish the goals you’ve outlined, you’re much better off sharing constructive criticism—no matter how difficult that might be.Howyou deliver that feedback is sometimes just as important as the feedback itself.
Tips on delivering feedback
- Be aware of yourself. To increase the chances the negative feedback you deliver is effective, choose your words carefully and focus on the nonverbal cues you pass along with your critiques. Pay particular attention to your facial expressions, breathing, posture and intonation to ensure your feedback is well-received.
- Set your intentions and reasoning. You should also share your intentions with employees before delivering negative feedback. For example, if you’re heading to a trade show with a few people on your sales team and you want to give them some pointers about how they can be more effective there, preface your feedback by letting your team know you’re sharing it because you want to see them succeed and you want to see the company grow.
- Give feedback to everyone. Remember, feedback shouldn’t only be given to rookies. Even your best employees can improve their performance. Every member of your team deserves to know what they’re doing well and where they’re weakest.
- Be prepared. Over the course of your career, you will invariably come across employees who aren’t able to receive criticism well. Maybe a member of your team takes an adversarial stance in a feedback session. Maybe slight criticism causes someone else to lose their temper or cry. While you can’t control the way your employees react to feedback, you can control how you give it—and how you respond to any outbursts that may result. In the instances where you expect a worker might react poorly to feedback, make sure you’re prepared. Reassure these employees that all the feedback you’re offering is given for their own good and, above all else, you want them to succeed.
Making employee feedback work
Adobe’s managers give feedback to their teams by setting clear expectations, giving feedback regularly, and having conversations that focus on growth and development.
But ultimately, in order to build the strongest team possible, you need to get into the habit of sharing positiveandnegative feedback on a regular basis. It’s that simple.
As you begin developing the plans for a new and improved feedback program, keep these tips top of mind to increase the chances your efforts succeed:
- Be specific.“You are doing a pretty good job but you can definitely do better.” That’s nice and all. But what exactly does it mean? The more specific you can be with feedback, the better. For example, imagine one of your star employees recently seems disengaged and has been missing deadlines. You might say, “I’ve noticed that your attitude has changed over the last few weeks and you’re missing some important deadlines. Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do to help you?”
- Be timely. Imagine one of your employees has gotten into the habit of coming and going as they please despite the fact that your office has a relatively strict 9-to-5 policy. If you notice this behavior in February, don’t wait until October to share your thoughts about it. For the best results, deliver feedback in the moment. That way, bad behaviors can be corrected right away and employees won’t feel taken for granted because their great work will be recognized immediately.
- Be private. Don’t air dirty laundry in the public square. When sharing negative feedback, make sure that no one but the individual employee can hear it. The last thing you want is for your feedback to embarrass the member of your team you’re trying to help.
- Be positive. Effective feedback is all about framing. For starters, get into the habit of delivering positive feedback when it’s warranted. Studies show that recognizing hard work can go a long way toward increasing engagement and happiness. When you’re delivering negative feedback, you can still put a positive spin on it. For example, let’s say one of your employees just submitted a project that wasn’t up to your standards. Instead of berating them, say something like, “You’ve come a long way over the last few months. But, for whatever reason, this project wasn’t your best work. I know you will do much better next time because I know how talented you are and you’ve demonstrated that before several times. Let me know what I can do to help you get back to that level.”
- Be honest. Don’t beat around the bush. If you really want your team to succeed, you need to be brutally honest with the feedback you deliver. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to get the results you have in mind. Tell the truth—no matter how difficult it may be. Remember, your employees want to hear constructive criticism. Choose your words wisely—but don’t sugarcoat your message.
Pro tip: Whenever you’re giving feedback to your employees, be sure to open the floor up so they can share their thoughts on the issues you raise. The more collaborative your feedback program is, the better results you’re likely to realize.
With a strong feedback program in place, your employees will continue to improve over time—making it easier to hit your goals. As you rack up and more accomplishments, you’ll be able to grow your team and deliver even more victories for your company.