Feedback is one of the most important ways you can engage in with members of your team1. Employees have the right to know what they are doing well and what they need to improve.
Sometimes, however, people in management or supervisor positions find it difficult to give feedback to their team members. They don’t want to be known as ‘harsh’ bosses, or they put up the excuse that they don’t want to dishearten or demotivate their reports.
You don’t need to be harsh or abrasive to give good, objective feedback. Harshness comes from using rough language —or being sarcastic— or recriminating your interlocutor. Good feedback seeks to improve the situation and the employee’s performance.
Practical advise when giving feedback
Feedback needs to be concise and straight to the point. Trying to sound exaggeratedly positive, or touching only tangentially related subjects to appear more friendly distracts the attention from the important issues of the conversation. For example, if the employee’s job is at risk, you must clearly say her so. Don’t just hint vaguely at ‘what could happen’ if she does not improve her performance.
Feedback should be as objective as possible. This is difficult because it implies basing your judgment not on perceptions but on validated facts. For example, if you ask others in the company for feedback about one of your team members (a common practice in some organizations), you must value the objectiveness of that feedback, at the risk of being unfair if you don’t do so.
Feedback should not be abstract but concrete. Avoid vagueness. If you are telling someone that in order to get a promotion she needs to develop her strategic skills, then you must explain what you mean by strategic skills, and by which criteria will she be evaluated. If one of your supervisors needs to be better at managing his team, then give him examples of what he is not doing now, and you expect him to do.
So, don’t improvise. Think in advance what you are going to say, the examples you are going to use, the goals your are setting.
Help others achieve their best potential
I like to view feedback as a way to help others achieve their best potential. Being good at giving feedback is hard. But if you are responsible of other’s people development –professional or otherwise– timely feedback is probably not just an option or tool, but part of your responsibilities.
- Although in this article I refer to feedback to your reports, I think feedback should be given up and down, and laterally. ↩