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How to give direct feedback that works

Posted by Neha De

December 17, 2021

Employee feedback that is effective can be an incredibly powerful tool in a manager’s arsenal, as it can help grow and develop the workers in an organization, improve the levels of communication and trust, as well as strengthen the bonds between leaders and employees. 

According to a Gallup study, “People who know and use their strengths -- and the companies they work for -- tend to be better performers. In one study of 65,672 employees, Gallup found that those who received strengths feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than for employees who received no feedback (controlling for job type and tenure).”

Effective feedback also helps managers foster learning and shape employee behavior, which can drive better performance. And for those getting the feedback, it can be an opportunity for career growth and development. 

However, feedback is often omitted or ignored in order to avoid discomfort. While many managers don’t think of feedback as an effective strategy, only 26% of employees believe that the feedback they receive helps them do better work, according to another study by Gallup

Check these seven tips to help leaders and managers give employee feedback that works and can help them get the outcome they are looking for.

Keep business outcomes as the point of focus

– A good starting point for a feedback session is business outcomes. A leader’s job is to nurture talent, boost sales and improve customer service; hence, if you frame your feedback as a means to reach a particular business goal, it turns into an opportunity to solve a problem instead of criticizing. Feedback that is based on the worker’s growth and development is a lot more helpful. 

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Be direct

– Make sure that the feedback you give is clear, concise and solution-oriented. If you want to offer corrective feedback, avoid using general comments such as “Your work needs improvement.” Be specific about what you expect from your subordinate and offer tips on how they can achieve the desired outcome. 

Practice empathy

– According to research by Catalyst, “Empathy is an important driver of employee outcomes such as innovation, engagement and inclusion.” And offering feedback requires an extra layer of sensitivity, especially if it is meant to expose a gap in self-knowledge. This is because such a gap can bring out strong emotions that can be confused as being defensive. 

Don’t wait for the annual review

– Employee feedback has the greatest impact on performance when it immediately follows an event. Also, engagement is at its highest when workers receive feedback regularly (on the fly). Because if a problem is left unaddressed, it will likely cause a domino effect. Also, by the time the annual performance review comes around, it may even be forgotten. 

Avoid taking the sandwich route

– While helping an employee get better at their job should always be the number one priority when giving feedback, sandwiching corrective feedback between chunks of positive feedback will only undermine the feedback and create confusion for the receiver. 

Corrective feedback, if given in a transparent and upfront way, will set the foundation for an authentic conversation. 

Keep the conversation two way

– According to the second Gallup study quoted above, effective feedback should be “an open, honest, two-way dialogue that strengthens relationships rather than one-way instruction and criticism.” Stay away from lecturing your workers on how they should be doing their job, and allow them to respond to your feedback and ask followup questions. This is the best way to arrive at a course of action that is acceptable to all.

Focus on behavior, not personality

– Focus on a worker’s behavior (what they do) instead of what they are like as a person. Focusing on the employee’s personality is not conducive to improvement.

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Neha De
Neha De

Neha De is a writer and editor with more than 13 years of experience. She has worked on a variety of genres and platforms, including books, magazine articles, blog posts and website copy. She is passionate about producing clear and concise content that is engaging and informative. In her spare time, Neha enjoys dancing, running and spending time with her family.

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