Give Employee Feedback in a Positive Way

By: Angela Huffmon
Posted: 09/02/2011

The thought of giving feedback to an employee might fill some managers with a feeling of dread.  The feedback process is not usually a favorite part of a manager’s job.  Many managers will try to wait until the day of the performance evaluation to give their feedback.  However, waiting doesn’t work to encourage a change in employee work performance.

Some people will say that annual performance evaluations are a thing of the past.  I disagree, I believe that sitting down with each of your employees on an annual basis is important to promote a healthy business relationship.  In a modern world of voice mail, email, text messages, and FaceBook sitting down face-to-face with someone seems archaic.  Performance evaluations give you an opportunity to discuss the employee’s work but also allow you get to know what is important to them.  As long as you do it correctly, giving feedback can be a positive experience for you and your employees.

Give feedback frequently

You should be offering feedback on a regular basis to all your employees.  If you see something an employee has done wrong explain what you observed and how they can improve.  Don’t wait until a project has gone completely off the tracks before saying something.  Coming to the employee immediately will allow them to increase their skills.  In addition, by giving feedback regularly the employee will gain more confidence the next time they are given a similar assignment.

Don’t skim on positive feedback.  Most of the time the only feedback an employee hears is negative.  Usually when a project goes smoothly and is completed on time nothing is said.  Don’t wait until the end of the project, throughout the process encourage the employee.  Express how much you appreciate their attention to accuracy, or their dedication to the project timeline.  These types of comments will engage the employee and better your relationship.

Avoid ambiguous language

When you’re giving feedback be clear on what you like or don’t like.  Sometimes managers will hide their negative comments behind ambiguous language, or industry jargon.  You may feel more secure hiding behind big ten dollar words, but if the employee doesn’t understand the message then you’ve wasted your time.  Be clear in what it is you want to say.  Use words that an eighth grader would understand.  You want to know that the employee knows exactly what went wrong and how the problem can be fixed.

Be aware of your emotions

Express unemotionally where the employee needs to make improvements.  Be aware of your emotions and body language.  If you are angry about a mistake that has happened, give yourself a chance to cool off before approaching the employee.  Your angry posture or tone of voice may communicate more than your words.  Instead of hearing your words, your employee may be leaving the conversation feeling hurt and unmotivated.  Your emotions could get in the way of any achieving improvements.

Make an improvement plan

When you recognize that the employee needs to improve in a particular area.  After you deliver the negative feedback, work with the employee to create a plan of improvement.  This does not give you the go ahead to begin micromanaging the employee.  Micromanagement will only derail the employee’s progress, create resentments, and discourage motivation.  Instead you and the employee should discuss how the problem can be avoided in the future.  Educate the employee on the steps that may have been missed.  Set progress dates where the employee can continue working on the project and check in with you on specific dates for further feedback. 

Feedback should be given on a formal and informal basis.  Frequent feedback may be more informal allowing the employee to increase their skills and make improvements before the formal review.  The formal performance review process should be a culmination of discussions that has been taking place throughout the year.  In addition, any problems that may have arisen during the year can be corrected before the review allowing the employee the opportunity to qualify for promotions.

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