Managers Guide on how to provide feedback

Constructive feedback—which does not imply punishment or threats—offers opportunities for performance improvement.

Constructive feedback is often more difficult to give than praise because leaders fear the reaction of the worker. They do not want to offend, anger or upset the worker and so either avoid giving any feedback at all or only focus on the positives and hope that the person will improve. Learn more about management by studying a diploma of Leadership and management online.

Performance feedback which includes an improvement focus (constructive feedback) will contain a part where the current or previous performance is discussed, but if it is discussed in a calm, rational manner that is free from any accusations or value judgements and is framed in the spirit of improvement, it is likely to be well received.

Steps to giving effective constructive feedback include:

  1. Plan feedback. Why is feedback being, when and where will it be delivered? Planning might take only a few seconds or a few minutes.
  2. Be aware of body language, tone and the words used when giving feedback. Be direct, open and honest. Do not use confrontational words or tone.
  3. Be specific. Talk about specific events or job responsibilities. Generalised statements that can be unhelpful include:
    1. ‘You need to take more care with your work.’
    2. ‘Try to be assertive.’
    3. ‘Do it better next time.’
  4. The outcome. What is the result or outcome desired from offering constructive feedback? What needs to be changed, improved, stopped or continued? Be clear about what is desired so the worker can understand and know what they need to do to change or keep doing.
  5. Check understanding. Once feedback has been provided, allow the recipient to respond. Listen actively to what they say and check that they understand what has been said.

Negative feedback and criticism does not enhance self-esteem, and can act as a barrier to performance and build resistance. In the feedback situation the leader should take care to phrase verbal or written responses in ways that are supportive of, not discouraging to performance enhancement.

When giving feedback restrict the information imparted to the work tasks. Personalities or character traits not relevant to the situation do not form part of the process. Use positive, non-discriminatory language and make instructions supportive, not critical, sarcastic or denigrating.

Consider the notion of the feedback hamburger. Feedback can start with something positive (however minor) and end with something positive/ constructive. Acknowledge the things the worker has done correctly. Go on to explain the corrections that need to be made, so that they are sandwiched in the middle. This will not downplay the validity or importance of the need to adjust, but will assist in generating a positive and encouraging approach. Finish by reinforcing the correct behaviours, or a particular aspect of those behaviours.

Stay positive. A key role of the leader is to motivate workers to achieve the best that they possibly can. This is especially important when they are being given constructive criticism. Find ways to praise the parts of their performance that have met or exceeded expectations and use this as leverage to encourage them to improve other areas. Keep workers thinking positively that improvement is a continual process and one to be embraced even if it seems uncomfortable.

Be very clear about what the standard is that is required and what was actually achieved. Workers cannot improve if they do not get meaningful data about what they are doing. If they think that they have achieved what is required but they have in fact misinterpreted the requirements, then it is the leader’s responsibility to clarify what is required.

Meetings can be used to communication information about the achievement of work responsibilities. They offer opportunities to disseminate information and give and receive feedback.

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They can be used to:

  • establish and clarify performance needs for the day/ week/ month
  • review performance
  • identify ways to improve performance
  • monitor progress
  • motivate and enthuse people to achieve performance indicators
  • acknowledge and reward high performance
  • address problems, issues and improvement needs
  • generate creative problem solutions and reach decisions on issues or problems
  • address issues related to poor performance

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