6 ways managers can give effective employee feedback
Interviews / Opinions

6 ways managers can give effective employee feedback


We are poor judges of ourselves. It’s true in our personal relationships, and it’s true in the workplace too. But how can we ever improve if we can’t look at our strengths and weaknesses in the eye? In the workplace, there’s a way you can help employees know where they stand — give them frequent feedback.

Regular feedback builds trust between managers and employees and enables more honest communication. Constructive feedback challenges and inspires employees to make positive changes that affect your whole team and the workplace. The ability to give effective feedback separates empathetic leaders from opportunistic managers. It’s a valuable skill all managers should cultivate if they want to have an impact on their teams.

Whether you have a lot, little, or no experience giving employee feedback, there’s always something to learn in the matter. This post shares the secrets for a successful feedback process, offering tips and concrete employee feedback examples.

6 tips for providing effective feedback to your employees

Most people say they’re receptive to feedback, but the truth is that hearing negative feedback usually triggers anxiety and defensiveness. These negative emotions, along with pride and fear of failure among others, can turn a feedback session into disaster. The following 6 tips will help you approach and offer effective feedback that inspires without intimidating.

1. Offer timely feedback

Timely feedback is key, especially when you want to discuss a problematic behavior. Let’s say you heard a customer service employee being rude at a customer. Waiting until the performance review to bring the incident up is a bad idea, and here’s why: One, the employee will probably have repeated the same behavior several times thinking that it’s acceptable to talk back to unreasonable customers. Two, the employee will (rightfully) feel that you’d been lying in wait, gathering evidence to attack them. By giving untimely feedback, you seem to have no intention of hearing the employee’s side of the story or helping them improve.

One case when you need to postpone giving feedback, though, is when you’re frustrated. If you know that it will be more of a scolding than a two-sided conversation, give yourself some time to calm down before you speak with the employee.

2. Keep it private, and discuss in person

If you feel tempted to blurt out, “Wow, you’re really taking your time writing that report!” in front of everyone, don’t. All you’ll get is an awkward silence in the office or an outburst from an indignant employee. Employee feedback should always be given on a one-to-one basis in a place where you won’t be interrupted or overheard. The employee should feel they’re in a safe environment where they can think with calm and process the feedback.

Avoid giving feedback over email too. Email communication doesn’t allow for a real-time discussion. Not to mention that written communication is ineffective and often misinterpreted. Even positive feedback is best given in private to avoid evoking feelings of competitiveness and jealousy among employees. Constantly praising a particular employee in front of their colleagues can also be interpreted as favoritism.

3. Be specific

Managers often say things like “I expected more from you” or “I think you can do better.” Vague comments like these are more along the lines of criticism and far from effective feedback. To get your point across, you need to be specific and explain what the employee did well or where they failed. Especially when giving negative feedback, generalizing and negating the employee’s whole effort is neither fair nor helpful.

Be specific when giving praise, too. Saying “Great job on that presentation”, though motivating, isn’t constructive. What did you like about that presentation? Did you like the employee’s confidence, or had they done an exceptional job with the visual elements? The more specific you are, the more likely the employee will take your words seriously.

4. Focus on the impact

“You took too long to finish the graphics, Kate.” “So what?”, Kate might think. So Tom had to work overtime to finish the project on time. But Kate doesn’t know that. Therefore, delivering her work one day late doesn’t seem like a big deal. Why would you even mention it?

Letting the employee in on the consequences of their actions has a much stronger impact and is what ultimately motivates them to change. It helps them paint a more concrete picture and realize the truth of the situation. Plus, if the employee is unaware of how their actions affect their team, they might question the relevance and legitimacy of your feedback.

5. Listen with an open mind

Feedback can’t bring positive results if you have a negative attitude. You have to believe that an employee is capable of change so that they will believe it too. It’s also essential not to condemn an employee or draw any conclusions before you hear their side of the story. An employee that arrives repeatedly late might be taking care of a sick parent at home, for example.

Whatever the case, a feedback session is not the time to point fingers, but to understand both sides. Explain the situation that initiated this discussion, let them process the feedback and, if the employee needs time, come back to discuss it further the next day.

6. Work on a solution together

An effective feedback session should leave the employee with actionable advice and a clear way forward. Depending on the situation, you can suggest additional training or new work processes. Always ask how you can help and in what ways you can improve. Check in with the employee a few days later to discuss the results. Working on a solution together is the best way to end your feedback meeting on a positive note.

Over to you

As you gain more experience, you’ll get better at giving effective feedback. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to give feedback with no other intention than to help the employee and with the belief that improvement is possible.

Of course, nothing’s set in stone in the workplace. Sometimes an employee’s performance drops because they weren’t cut out for the job they’re doing. Reskilling can open the door to a position that could fit your employee better, so it’s an option you should discuss with them. Check how to develop and deploy an employee reskilling program, the fast and easy way.


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