Giving tough feedback is part of the manager’s role
Giving feedback is a critically important skill for managers, but it’s also one of the hardest skills for leaders to master. Often, they fall into the trap of not giving enough feedback or focusing on what needs to be fixed now.
It’s important to think of managing others as a relationship that needs to be nurtured. Regular and consistent feedback and communication keep this relationship strong because all parties understand what’s being done well and what needs work instead of being in the dark until a big problem happens.
As with any relationship, tough-to-hear feedback is made more palatable when the employee knows you care about them as a person and when they also hear about the positive aspects of their performance.
Here are 5 tips to give better feedback:
- Check your biases: Are you giving fair and honest feedback? This goes both ways -- is your feedback too ‘soft’ because you want to be liked, or too ‘hard’ because you haven’t given clear instructions or provided the necessary resources to support the employee?
- Don’t “sandwich” your feedback: If you are trying to provide positive and negative feedback at the same time, it dilutes the effectiveness of both. Employees will learn to wait for the negative after receiving a compliment.
- Think about the positive-to-negative ratio: Feedback on an employee’s strengths does increase employee engagement significantly more than when feedback focuses on negative aspects of their performance. But any kind of feedback is better for employee engagement than no feedback at all. Managers who increase positive feedback can see an increase in employee engagement as well.
- Schedule regular one-on-one time for feedback: When employees know to expect feedback, it’s easier for them to prepare, as well as discuss bigger picture topics like career goals. This continued habit ensures you deepen the relationship over time, so when you do have to deliver tough feedback it’s put in perspective with the rest of the employee’s performance.
- Don’t overdo just-in-time feedback: While real-time feedback is important, employees don’t want to feel bombarded every day. Managers have been programmed to ensure they give timely or just-in-time feedback so that issues can be resolved quickly and not repeated. But when taken to the extreme, this type of feedback can cumulatively feel intense and wear down the employee’s confidence over time. It’s in the best interests of managers and employees both to have broader and longer-term discussions about performance plus feedback conversations that should happen in the moment.
Good leaders aren’t just born with the ability to give feedback, it takes practice and time to develop the skills to keep employees motivated and engaged.
Ultimately, these five ways to give better feedback all share one important characteristic: BALANCE. So, think about ways you can bring more balance into your relationships with direct reports. After all, the depth and quality of your relationships will make or break your success and that of your team. Giving balanced feedback—short and long term, positive and negative, in the moment and regularly scheduled time—helps ensure you have strong, engaging relationships.