No one likes to deliver negative feedback, which is why most managers dread employee evaluations. To avoid hurt feelings, tears or even anger from employees, managers soften remarks by being less direct or disguising negative feedback with praise. As a result, the feedback may not be heard or the employee may underestimate the importance of it.
Negative feedback should be as direct as positive feedback. As a manager, your goal is to state your concerns, understand what’s causing the issue and identify ways to help an employee move beyond it. Your discussion should be as much about working through an issue as identifying it.
The following ideas will help you deliver constructive feedback.
1. Plan It Out! Often, employees worry for days about feedback but most managers spend little time thinking through what they want to accomplish with their feedback. Take time to think through the message you want to get across to an employee and then outline your thoughts with specific examples of the situation you’re trying to change.
2. Own It! Focus on your personal perception of the situation, rather than what the person did wrong, and address the receiver with facts, rather than assumptions and hearsay. Instead of saying “You were wrong to speak out in the meeting” say “When you spoke in the meeting, I felt that you were very angry about the situation.”
3. Ask for It! Give the receiver a chance to explain. Most managers spend too much time talking in feedback sessions. Give the employee an opportunity to react to your perceptions and explain their perspective. This input will be important in helping the employee move beyond the situation.
4. Map it Out! Develop a plan to help the employee correct and move beyond the situation. Addressing the situation is a first step in the process, but most employees want to know how to improve and what you, as the manager, are willing to do to help them.
5. Sum it Up! Now that you’ve offered constructive feedback, summarize the outcome of the conversation and how you’ve agreed to help the employee move beyond the situation. Create a one page summary that serves as a record for both of you and set a follow-up date to measure progress.
The only way for people to get better at what they do is for the people they work for to provide candid and frequent feedback. Feedback is not really different than any other business process. You get out of it what you put into it. Taking time to define a clear message and think through a desired outcome will insure that the employee understands the feedback and has the support needed to move beyond it.
Author: Sally Williamson is a leading resource for improving the impact of spoken communication and executive presence. She is a 27 year veteran of developing key messages and coaching executives to deliver them effectively. As CEO and founder of Sally Williamson & Associates, Sally specializes in executive coaching and developing custom workshops for groups that focus on improving spoken communication skills.
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