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Giving Honest Feedback

Hallowe’en is past but there are still scary things lurking in the corners of HR. Giving feedback scares many managers, especially if it contains criticism of some type.

If you lead a team, providing regular feedback is a part of the job; but more than 70% of employees think they need more feedback and that their performance would improve in consequence. Interestingly, the majority say that recognition of what they do is more important to them than financial reward.

Most people can come up with an example where they have given or received negative feedback and found it challenging. Negative experiences like these can become a source of anxiety.

That said, there’s not much point in giving feedback unless you are balanced, honest, objective and evidenced and that includes dealing with what many managers see as “bad news”.

Strong employee engagement is aligned closely with the ability to give honest feedback in a constructive way. A study of almost 23,000 managers showed that those who ranked in the lowest 10% in their ability to give honest feedback to their direct reports received engagement scores from their subordinates averaging only 25%. Those in the top 10% for giving honest feedback had subordinates who ranked at the 77th percentile in engagement. The difference between those willing to give clear and honest feedback and those that are not is very marked.

Feedback usually comes into play when you want to appreciate the work someone’s done and acknowledge it; coach someone to improve performance in a specific area; or, evaluate someone’s performance.

Bear in mind the following.

  • When you’re providing feedback, be clear about your intention. Are you trying to acknowledge someone’s good work? Identify behaviours you’d like the person to change? Or share how he or she ranks compared to the rest of the team? When you know the “why” behind your feedback, you’ll be able to better organise your thoughts, your message, and the conversation.
  • For feedback to be effective, it must be delivered in a way that allows the recipient to hear it. Ask the person how he or she would like to receive feedback.
  • Be precise. For example, don’t say: “You did a great job,” Point out what part of the job you thought was great. If you give vague negative feedback it gives the recipient nothing specific to work on.
  • Help the recipient understand why you’re giving it by explaining the impact of the behaviour.
  • Give concrete steps on what the person can do next time to improve the performance.

Giving good quality, honest feedback presents a great opportunity for both managers and team members. Seize that opportunity.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2017 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.

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