5 Keys to Giving Employees Good Feedback

Best Practices | 2 min read | May 17, 2021

It’s important to provide feedback to your employees about their job performance. You need to communicate what’s working and what isn’t to improve results, and your employees need to know how they’re doing if they’re going to improve.
But how do you provide clear, useful feedback on a consistent basis? Good feedback has five basic elements. It’s…

1. Unemotional

Don’t give feedback when you’re too angry/upset to give it calmly. Feedback given when you’re angry will more than likely be blown out of proportion and/or misinterpreted. When you’re feeling emotional, employees receiving feedback may feel that they’re being personally attacked, even if you’re giving feedback that is behaviorally based.

If you’re struggling to control your emotions about a particular subject, then wait to give feedback until you’ve cooled off.

2. Objective and Specific

Opinions about an employee’s performance on the job are not objectively based. They should not be communicated. Stick to the facts and be specific to avoid potential differences of opinion. If something needs improvement, concentrate on specific behaviors that you have observed that need work, not your opinion or feelings.

3. Focused and Relevant

Feedback given to employees should highlight specific areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the company or to you, rather than vague areas of personal preference. The employee who sells lots of service agreements may also speak in a tone you feel is too warm or personal. It can become an obsession to focus on the sound of her voice, when the only person it seems to be offending is you. Her sales results show that customers don’t mind.

Always pause for a moment before giving feedback and ask yourself what’s really important. If there is a much more significant problem that needs to be addressed, take care of it first. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

4. Direct

Being direct matters. If you give feedback on incorrect behavior, don’t sugarcoat it by adding positive feedback. You’re only trying to make the negative feedback sound less direct, and this can confuse employees.

When it’s time to praise, do so. When it’s time to give negative feedback, do so. If you keep your balance of feedback heavier on the positive side, it won’t be uncomfortable to confront employees with their mistakes.

5. Prompt

If you were learning to play the piano and couldn’t hear the sound from striking a key until five seconds after it was struck, how fast do you think you would learn to play well? Not very fast, right? It’s the same story when you delay giving feedback.

Immediate feedback is much more effective than delayed feedback. It is of little consequence to know the results of an action that took place a month, a week or a day ago, since feedback on history does nothing to correct or improve that history.

If you’re frequently around, you’ll have a much better chance of catching someone doing something right or wrong and giving feedback on the spot. When you observe something, act on it right away. Your paperwork can wait. Feedback can’t.

Small improvements in performance must also be noticed and reinforced. Since performance changes occur slowly, it’s crucial to reinforce a small improvement when it occurs.

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