Do you truly care about your employees? Do you really want them to improve? If yes, prove it by giving them feedback.
Yet feedback is not just for managers to give employees. Employees also give mangers feedback, and feedback can happen between peers.
Today I am focusing on the manager to employee feedback. And here’s why: Feedback is extremely important in an employee/manager relationship. Just take a look at these statistics*:
- Companies that intentionally give feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates
- 40% of workers are disengaged when they get little or no feedback
- Positive or negative, 82% of employees appreciate receiving feedback
- Of highly engaged employees, 43% receive feedback at least once a week
- 65% of employees say they want more feedback
- 27% of workers say the feedback they get improves their performance
- 42% of Millennials want feedback every week, yet 83% of Millennials say their manager’s feedback isn’t meaningful
- 92% of people think negative feedback is effective at improving performance
As you can see, feedback improves performance, lowers turnover, and perhaps most surprising—employees want it! Yet giving feedback can make managers uncomfortable. What do you say? How do you say it?
I’ve got you covered with this step-by-step guide to giving effective feedback, developed by Shari Harley. You can read more of her strategies in her book, “How To Say Anything To Anyone.”
Let’s take a look at Harley’s guide and then run through an example scenario.
Eight Easy Steps For Giving Feedback
- Introduce the conversation so feedback recipients know what to expect.
- Empathize so both the feedback provider and the recipient feel as comfortable as possible.
- Describe the observed behavior so the recipient can picture a specific recent example of what you’re referring to. The more specific you are, the less defensive he will be, and the more likely he’ll be able to hear you and take corrective action.
- Sharing the impact or result describes the consequences of the behavior. It’s what happened as a result of the person’s actions.
- Having some dialogue gives both people a chance to speak and ensures that the conversation is not one-sided. Many feedback conversations are not conversations at all; they’re monologues. One person talks and the other person pretends to listen, while thinking what an idiot you are. Good feedback conversations are dialogues during which the recipient can ask questions, share his point of view, and explore next steps.
- Make a suggestion or request so the recipient has another way to approach the situation or task in the future. Most feedback conversations tell the person what he did wrong and the impact of the behavior; only rarely do they offer an alternative. Give people the benefit of the doubt. If people knew a better way to do something, they would do it another way.
- Building an agreement on next steps ensures there is a plan for what the person will do going forward. Too many feedback conversations do not result in behavior change. Agreeing on next steps creates accountability.
- Say “Thank you” to create closure and to express appreciation for the recipient’s willingness to have a difficult conversation.
Seems straightforward enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, reading a handy guide and actually talking to a person have different levels of complexity. Each employee/manager relationship is unique, and the characteristics of that relationship will paint every conversation. However, following the guide will help the conversation stay focused, organized and neutral. Let’s take a look at an example.
Play-By-Play Example of Giving Feedback
Pierre is a remote worker who lives in a different time zone than the corporate office. While he delivers excellent work on his projects, he often won’t update his team on his progress, leaving them with an entire workday without knowing where they stand on the project timeline.
Despite being asked by the project manager multiple times to send a quick status email at the end of his workday, Pierre doesn’t remember. Sometimes he has to be emailed three times before his status is communicated. This causes stress for the team, and holds back progress while the project manager waits for his update in order to inform the team on next steps.
It’s time for Pierre’s manager to intervene and try to improve the situation. In other words, it’s time for feedback. Let’s take a look at how to provide Pierre feedback based on the eight steps detailed above.
Introduce the conversation
First, Pierre’s manager should arrange a time to have a conversation. This conversation request can be made via email, phone call, or chat, depending on the usual mode of communication in this employee dynamic. His manager should let him know that she wants to discuss making the team function better, and how he can aid that effort.
Pierre’s manager should communicate empathetically about his situation. In this case, she would say something like, “I’m sure it’s difficult to work in a time zone that isn’t aligned with the majority of the team, and that the inevitable early mornings and late nights must be tiring. Plus, I understand that not having your team around you in person can make quick and efficient communication challenging.”
Describe the observed behavior
Now it’s time for Pierre’s manager to be specific. She may say, “Last week DeAndré requested an update before you ended your workday so that the team would know if you were able to fix the reported bugs in the new website functionality. He needed to know because he had a call with the client early the next morning and had to provide a project update, and discuss allocating resources for the next work cycle. However, the update wasn’t provided.”
Share impact or result
Pierre’s manager would now go on to explain specifically the impact this particular behavior has on the project and the team at large. For example, “Because DeAndré didn’t receive your update, he had to cancel the client meeting with very little notice. Now the client is losing trust in the team, and we may not get future work from them. If we don’t get future work from this client, which is quite large, we won’t be able to meet our goals, and will have to scale back the team.”
Have some dialogue
Now is Pierre’s chance to talk. Yet he might not feel that he can, if he feels he is in trouble and is retreating. That means his manager needs to create an open environment for Pierre to share his perspective. She can do this by asking open-ended questions and truly listening. For example, “What gets in your way of giving a status update at the end of your day?” or “How can I support you as you keep the team informed?” or “How do you feel about the project, in general?”
Make a suggestion or request
A skilled manager will be able to provide their employee with an actionable plan. Perhaps Pierre’s manager can suggest he set a reminder alarm for the end of his workday alerting him to the fact that he needs to send an update. Depending on the situation, the manger and employee can be creative when developing a solution.
Build an agreement on next steps
After making some suggestions, Pierre’s they should settle on one plan of action that they both agree to. They should also set a meeting in a few weeks or a month to follow up on his progress for status updates.
Say thank you!
No matter how well the conversation goes, it’s important to acknowledge your employee’s willingness to have the conversation. For example, “I know your day is already full, so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.”
These eight steps should set you up for a positive and productive relationship with your team members. And don’t forget, feedback isn’t always negative. Make a point to give positive feedback—and when you do, be specific!
*Statistics reported by Officevibe. See here for sources.