I have never met a manager who enjoys giving negative feedback, however feedback both positive and negative is an incredibly powerful tool. It offers the ability for you to grow as a company or as an individual. Feedback can improve the level of trust and communication and strengthen bonds between employee and manager. However we often avoid giving negative feedback as it is too uncomfortable, and at the same time avoid giving positive feedback as you don't want to come across as patronising.
1. Avoid giving unsolicited advice Only a third of people believe the feedback they receive is helpful. That’s because more often than not, it’s unsolicited, which can create an immense amount of stress for the person receiving it. If your direct report doesn’t ask for feedback directly, be sure to ask them if, when, and how they’d like to receive it. By doing this, you can give the control to your employee and increase the likelihood that they will act on the feedback you share. Empower your people to control the feedback agenda by helping them feel confident and comfortable enough to ask for it.
2. Be specific Employee feedback should be solutions oriented, crystal clear, and to the point. If your intention is to offer corrective feedback, general comments, like “Your work needs to be improved” or “I wasn’t very impressed with those reports. You have to do better than that” can leave your employee confused and in the dark as to what aspect of their work needs to be corrected. Be specific on what you’d like your employee to do and offer guidance on how they can apply the feedback. For example, “I noticed you were late on your last two deadlines. I’d like to work with you on your time management to ensure you’re not committing to too much and completing each of your tasks in a timely manner.” Pro tip: Don’t get stuck on corrective feedback. Remember to also share positive feedback with your employees too.
3. Come with a deep level of empathy “Delivering feedback that exposes a wide gap in self-knowledge demands an extra measure of sensitivity. Like ripping off a scab, the sting of discovering such a profound gap often elicits strong emotions that can easily be confused as defensiveness. If you’re someone who bores the brunt of your colleague’s difficult behaviour, be sure you can set those frustrations aside in favour of the empathy you’ll need for this conversation. Before you even approach your colleague, be prepared to give them the space they’ll need to feel shocked upon receiving your feedback.
4. Don’t wait for a quarterly review Employee feedback immediately following an event has the greatest impact on performance. And engagement peaks when employees receive feedback on a weekly cadence. If issues are left unaddressed, they may multiply by a domino effect. So by the time the quarterly performance review comes around, you’ll be confronted with a host of issues that could have been avoided if mentioned earlier. Another flaw in saving feedback for the performance review process is that problems will be forgotten and the time for offering valuable feedback will have passed. Daily or weekly feedback will help you avoid the recency bias—which mainly reflects recent work and occurs too infrequently to align with the employee’s workflow—and can make tracking and analysing a colleague’s work much easier for all parties involved.
5. Keep it private Don’t criticize publicly—ever. For some, even praise is better delivered in a private meeting. Some people simply don’t like being the centre of attention. You can also consider offering employee feedback in the form of a written response. This can give you time to reflect and offer a more thoughtful answer. Feedback isn’t just uncomfortable for the receiver, it can be uncomfortable for the giver as well. By moving the location to a more informal area, you can help to alleviate some of the underlying pressure.