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Giving feedback can be one of the more challenging fields to navigate. It requires a sometimes intimidating level of directness, while issuing a degree of evaluation. But it is critical to development in the workplace, and more than that – employees want it. Especially corrective feedback. A 2014 assessment by Zenger/Folkman revealed that 57% of respondents preferred receiving corrective feedback over positive feedback because they felt it was more beneficial to career development.
Failing to give your top performers feedback (corrective or positive) may cause them to feel frustrated if they’re not being told how they can improve and develop. Furthermore, failing to give corrective feedback to someone who may be coming up short in a group setting could cause tension to boil over, leading to unwanted employee turnover and other long-term effects.
While it may not easy, giving your employees feedback is imperative to their growth, and will ultimately benefit your organization. The following tips will help you to perfect the art of giving feedback:
Change your mindset about feedback.
It shouldn’t be a once-a-year thing, nor does it have to be a negative experience. Though there’s no ideal cadence to provide feedback, once a quarter is a good approach. Results over a one-month period may be influenced by a single outlier factor, but quarterly intervals provide a good performance sample size and only a small adjustment may be needed to put things “back on track.” Embrace the concept of giving constructive feedback in a one-on-one setting, opening up communication and having it be a dialogue rather than a one-sided conversation. The point of feedback is about the other person and their potential; not your own anxieties or doubts.
Change your employees’ mindset about feedback.
Sure, most employees want to know how they can continue to develop within their role, but there may be employees who associate feedback with an intimidating or negative experience. Break down these barriers by proposing more frequent one-on-ones aimed at career development, keeping your request positive and informal. Create a meeting environment that promotes low key peer-to-peer feedback as well, and encourage everyone to participate. If someone is apprehensive about speaking up, try asking: “How do X’s actions change your work?” This allows the person to answer in a way that incorporates their own work experience, alleviating pressure to directly target someone else. Finish these peer-to-peer meetings with positive thoughts and reinforce how these meetings shape the plans for the future.
Make it about the behavior, not the character.
Saying “You’re bad at presenting” is a personal attack. Instead, frame it up as “You seemed a bit nervous in that presentation last week. Here’s how I think we can make this an easier process for you and to improve your confidence when you’re speaking.” Any positive feedback should be offered as well, so as the employee can focus on positives and not feel overwhelmed by negativity.
Make your feedback specific.
The key to giving meaningful feedback is making it as specific as possible so the person you’re talking to knows exactly how they can improve. Example: Instead of saying “That presentation could have been better”, try saying “Great job on the presentation! One small comment – next time, some added stats and visuals would help make it more effective.” The goal here is to avoid any confusion about what exactly went awry, which could leave the feedback recipient frustrated and would likely result in no behavioral change.
Don’t overdo it.
In instances where there may be several areas that an employee needs to work on, drawing attention to all of them at once will leave him or her feeling overwhelmed. Instead, draw attention to one or two areas at a time.
Come to a joint plan of action.
Supply feedback and suggest next steps in which he or she can work on the aforementioned areas, but ultimately leave it up to that person to determine the final course of action. When it comes to the career trajectory of employees, he or she should should have the final stamp of approval in determining next steps that serve long-term career value.
Feedback starts with you. By creating open communication avenues, you cultivate a respectful environment where employees feel comfortable receiving and giving feedback. It certainly doesn’t have to be an annual cringe-worthy event, or intimidating for the employee. Having regular, quarterly feedback sessions will reduce this intimidation. I let employees know that I want them to succeed and to correct anything that needs to be corrected sooner rather than later – before something minor becomes major. Consider this: If your top performers leave because they feel stagnant in their roles, it can cost your company 400% of that employees’ annual salary to replace him or her. Delivering potentially negative feedback is more than worth that cost and risk.
Bottom line, feedback is essential to career development. When given and received effectively, constructive feedback can improve your team’s efficiency, defuse tensions, and build a positive work environment. And along the way you’ll become a better leader.
This post is written on behalf of Cory Jones, who currently serves as Vice President of Commercial Marketing for Frontier Communications. In his role, Cory is responsible for all facets of business-to-business marketing for the company, including acquisition, retention, digital, social media, lead generation, and marketing communications.
Cory holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Texas Tech University. He lives in the Dallas area with his wife and two children, and is on an eternal quest to finally break par on the golf course.