Employer feedback is one of the best-established ways to communicate with an employee. With positive feedback, an employee, or even an entire team, will feel energized about their mission and skills. Negative feedback can, in theory, right a ship careening into a rocky coast.
Let’s talk about some feedback problems
- Feedback trap – No one wants to hear feedback and no one wants to give any. This means our information is ignored or the feedback we get is thin or simply wrong.
- Feeding my ego – The employee only accepts information that fits his or her beliefs. The employee pushes back against anything else.
- Feeding me to the lions – Employees are asked to provide feedback on their boss or senior leadership. Employees fear reprisal and lie or don’t provide any useful information.
- Feeding buffet – Too much feedback with no action plan, accountability, or follow-up, can loop back to feeding my ego – the employee only responds to what he or she believes is best.
I’m not advising you to ditch your feedback surveys, discussions, and procedures. However, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be administered with care.
Consider what or who you are looking to solicit and provide information concerning specific issues or behaviors. If your organization’s policy is to ask a variety of people to provide input for performance, assure direct reports that the information is confidential – unless they are filing a formal complaint.
Direct your questions to specific areas, not general questions about work habits and issues.
Ask the right people for feedback. If you only solicit information from subordinates or “friendly” sources, you miss essential critical comments from peers, and in some cases, customers.
If you have to deliver a lot of negative feedback, pick one or two of the most important issues where you want to see improvement. A blanket “your work habits are poor, you fail to communicate, and you are bordering on sexual harassment behavior” is not actionable.
If the person receiving the feedback is prone to only listen to what fits his or her world view, action items are essential. My book, How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work, takes you through a workplace scenario where an employee is placed with a mentor who helps her see her flaws and turns negative feedback into positive results.
This issue of Wise Words explores feedback and how to ensure it works for you and your employees.
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