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How to give feedback to employees

Jun 18, 2020

Last week, we talked about how to give feedback to your boss. But, what about the flip side? How can you give feedback to your employees in a way that’s respectful, considerate and effective? The answer isn’t always straightforward.

Don’t sweat it—we’re here to help! We have a few tips and tricks that hold true in most, if not all, employee feedback sessions.

Incorporate positivity

It’s hard for employees to know how they’re doing if no one tells them. With that in mind, remember to give positive feedback to your employees. Even if you’re planning on delivering negative feedback, try to find something positive to say, too.

Negative feedback isn’t always easy to hear, but supplementing it with positive reinforcement will make it more manageable on both sides.

Set aside time to deliver feedback, and bring examples

Without regular one-on-ones, employees might feel unrecognized for their awesome work or fall into bad habits.

Set up regular meetings devoted to your direct reports. The most important thing to remember is do not wait until annual reviews to give feedback. A year is too long to go between feedback sessions, and could weaken some of your more meaningful points. Instead, set up a schedule that allows for immediate feedback while encouraging discussion.

Likewise, try to deliver feedback face-to-face, and with specific examples. This minimizes the risk of being misunderstood (as is often the case with virtual communication). Don’t just say, “good job,” or “you could be doing better”—give clear examples to support your statements. This will help employees connect with your feedback using verbal and nonverbal signals, and give them a roadmap for next steps.

    Dig a little deeper

    When giving feedback, ask clarifying questions. Why did your employee make the decision they made? What thought process led them to a job well done? What anxieties triggered a less-than-ideal result?

    Doing this gives space for two things: letting employees tell their side of the story, and understanding the environment that they work in. In leadership roles, it can be easy to forget the everyday expectations of your employees, and if those expectations are setting them up for failure, that’s definitely worth hearing.

    Turn negatives into positives

    In feedback sessions between you and your employee, there’s going to be a power disparity; That’s just the way it is. This is going to affect how your employees respond to criticism. In other words, employees react much more strongly to negative feedback than they do positive feedback.

    There’s no getting around this, but being mindful of it is the first step in the process. Try to come at it from a solution-oriented perspective. Ask questions like:

    • How can I support you with situations like this in the future? 
    • Is there a company process we could’ve implemented to help you? 
    • Do you need additional resources moving forward?

    Look at this as an opportunity for your employee to express their needs while moving the discussion forward. No one likes hearing negative feedback, but your position and attitude can make all the difference.

      Bring it all together

      1. If you’re giving negative feedback, find something positive to say, too 
      2. Set up regular meetings to deliver or receive feedback 
      3. Avoid sweeping generalizations; instead, provide concrete examples
      4. Listen to your employee’s side of the story 
      5. Make the experience as constructive as possible
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