How to Give Feedback
Constructive feedback not only helps employees do their work more effectively, but also improves communication between the supervisor and the employee. Frequently, supervisors, subordinates, and coworkers do not provide enough constructive feedback to each other. When specific and accurate information is provided in a constructive way, both employees and supervisors can improve or change their performance.
Importance of providing feedback
All employees who are performing competently should receive frequent praise and encouragement. Those who are not performing at the expected level should be informed of any problems and “coached” on how to improve. Apprising employees of good performance helps maintain their motivation and signals them to continue in this direction. Communicating with employees in a positive manner when they need to improve their performance will help prevent chronic work problems and minimize surprises during the Performance Review.
There are two important principles to remember in providing feedback:
- Both positive and corrective feedback should be given as close as possible in time to when the relevant performance occurs
- The performance should be documented
Guidelines for Giving Positive Feedback
Positive feedback is defined as providing feedback to someone who has done something well and deserves praise for his or her efforts. In providing positive feedback, the following general rules should be followed:
- Respect the individual’s privacy by choosing a time and place to speak without interruptions or being overhead by others. However, there may be occasions when it is appropriate to praise an employee publicly.
- Clearly describe what the individual did to deserve praise.
- Express personal appreciation and explain how the behavior helps in performing the everyday duties and responsibilities
- Ask if there are any job-related problems that the individual may need help with. Employees particularly appreciate it when their supervisors care enough to ask how they might help with any work problems.
- If necessary, the supervisor should schedule a follow-up meeting to see if the employee’s concerns have been addressed.
Guidelines for Giving Corrective Feedback
Corrective feedback is defined as providing feedback to someone who has not done something well and who requires some corrective action to improve performance. Good corrective feedback is provided in a constructive way that will continue to motivate the individual. In providing corrective feedback, the following general rules should be followed:
- Respect the individual’s privacy by choosing a time and place to speak without interruptions or being overhead by others. Privacy is especially important when giving constructive feedback.
- Focusing on the problem, not the individual. Avoid personalizing feedback, e.g., “Chris, the billing in the unit is two weeks behind; I’d appreciate your input concerning how to bring it up to date,” NOT “Chris, you are slowing up the billing!”
- Identify exactly why the problem causes difficulty for the unit and cannot be allowed to continue.
- Ask for the person’s help in resolving the problem and discuss the ideas he or she offers for its solution.
- Reach agreement on specific actions that each person will take to solve the problem. Confirm this agreement by restating it and by assigning a specific time frame or deadline to complete action.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting to examine the effectiveness of these actions.
- Never threaten the individual with ambiguous consequences if the behavior doesn’t change, e.g., “Shape up or you’ll be very sorry.” The purpose is to motivate a change in behavior for positive reasons. Stronger steps can and should be taken through the disciplinary process if behavior does not change.
- Never use feedback as a way to “put a person down” or “in their place,? to embarrass the individual in front of others, or to relieve anger.
- Attempt to leave the person motivated to perform better. If he or she is not motivated to improve, then the feedback was non-productive.
Key Elements of Feedback
“Performance feedback provides information that helps employees to alter, change or maintain their behaviors and/or attitudes so that the organization continues to operate smoothly.”
DESCRIBES BEHAVIOR: Feedback should address the specific action or behavior you are trying to recognize or change.
SPECIFIC: Feedback must be detailed and individualized for the specific person with whom you are addressing.
NON-EVALUATIVE: When providing feedback, one must not respond to the personal worth of the person, as this depicts the manager as a judge.
TIMELY: Feedback should be well timed. It should be given as close to the performance event being addressed as possible.
EMPATHETIC: Feedback should acknowledge the feelings of both parties in the discussion.
ACTION PLAN: As behavior change can only come from within oneself, feedback should specify the consequences of the actions or behavior concerned.
Using “I” Statements to Present Your Perception of Performance
Choosing Words Carefully
- Use “I-statements.” (Instead of “you-statements”)
- Express thoughts, feelings and opinions reflecting ownership. (Instead of denying ownership, being passive or indirect)
- Use clear direct requests or directives (commands) when you want others to do something. (Instead of hinting, being indirect, or presuming)
- Use Body Language
Do’s and Don’ts of Feedback
Don'ts for Aggressive People
- DON’T say, “I can’t” or “I won’t be able to.” Explain rationale.
- DON’T depersonalize feelings or deny ownership. “You make me mad.”
- DON’T exaggerate, minimize, or use sarcasm. “You’re never on time.”
- DON’T say, “You should,” “you must,” “you have to.” Restate as a request: “I would like you to…”
- DON’T use exaggerated words–“obviously,” “absolutely,” “always,” “never,” “impossible.”
Don'ts for Nonassertive People
- DON’T defer to be social or agree unwillingly. ” I don’t care, whatever everybody else wants.”
- DON’T say “ya’ know,” “maybe,” “kinda,” “sorta,” “only,” “just,” “I guess.” Restate in a more direct, confident manner without the wishy-washy qualifiers.
- DON’T ask, “Can you,” “could you,” “would you,” “why don’t you,” “would you mind,” “do you think you might.” Request by asking, “will you please” — it is the only question that truly asks for action and a commitment.
- DON’T use “it,” “that,” “one,” “you,” and “we.” Use “I.” State your thoughts with “I think,” your opinions with “I believe,” and your feelings with “I feel (mad, sad, glad, scared)” or “I am (mad, sad, glad, scared).”
How to Monitor Performance
Once the performance period begins, both the supervisor and employee have certain responsibilities. The employee’s responsibility is to perform the job in a way that meets established standards. The supervisor’s responsibility is to provide the direction and support needed to help employees perform effectively and to remove any obstacles to that performance.
Importance of Monitoring Performance
The supervisor should monitor the employee’s performance consistently throughout the performance period. Employees have a responsibility to keep the supervisor informed of progress and of events that may prevent them from performing at the expected level. The most important reasons for monitoring and recording performance are accuracy and feedback. Failure to consistently monitor and record employee performance leads to incorrect performance information. In addition, employees need regular feedback to adjust their performance on an ongoing basis.
Ways to Monitor Performance
There are many ways to monitor the employee’s performance, but the most frequently used is periodic, direct observation or “management by walking around.” Other methods include:
- Customer compliments/complaints
- Feedback from coworkers, peers, other supervisors, or customers
- Review of the employee’s work or records
- Review of time logs and/or activity reports
The supervisor and employee should, during the Expectation-Setting meeting, agree to the nature of expected performance, and also agree on how it will be monitored and measured. If measurement can be defined in a clear and concise manner, employees can also monitor their own performance throughout the period.
The challenge of monitoring performance is to get a fair (representative) sample of the overall work, but not to expect to include everything. Gathering a fair sample can be done by collecting examples of employees’ work on many different occasions and varying the days and times when they are collected. The supervisor should not monitor performance on the same day or at the same time of day throughout the review period. Information should be gathered on typical, slow, and busy days; for important projects and for routine ones; sometimes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon, and toward the end of the workday. The goal is to obtain a fair group of work examples that collectively are not biased in either a high or low direction.
It is important for the supervisor and employee to document performance incidents throughout the rating period. Good documentation helps avoid conflicts during the Midway Feedback session and the final performance evaluation. All documentation should be in the form of written records. Relying on memory increases the risk of inaccurate, incomplete, and missing information.
One method of recording information is an Employee Performance Log. The log is used to record incidents of performance – good or bad, competent or not competent. Regular entries should be made in the log throughout the performance period. The log is not intended to be a list of everything the employee does. Instead, it should be a record that fairly represents the employee’s performance over time.
WHEN / WHERE
In the case of performance that fails to meet expectations, record the nature of any discussion between the supervisor and employee about the performance incident. What should the employee have done? What is being done to assure that subsequent performance meets expectations? What time period was set for follow-up on these commitments?
Descriptions of Behavior: Word Choice Reference for Describing Performance