employee feedback

A Guide to Giving Employee Feedback

Originally published in the Rock Content Leadership Library on June 7th, 2017

Why is giving employee feedback so hard?  The most common answers are that we don’t want people we like or work with to feel bad and we don’t want them to feel like we are judging them.  The problems however, are many if we as good citizens of Rock Content do not provide feedback to those around us including: demotivation from good work not being recognized, problematic behavior persisting, breeding a culture of secrecy and stagnation.

To help overcome this, always try to put yourself in the position of the person to whom you will be giving your feedback.  Wouldn’t you want to know?  How soon would you like to know?  How would you like to be told?

I recently did some research including from the queen of employee feedback herself, Shari Harley, to help us build a process for this with our team.

Why Give Feedback?

There are only 2 reasons to provide feedback.

  1. Reinforce Behavior
  2. Improve Behavior

Who Deserves Our Feedback?

Everyone.  Feedback should be made up, down and across the organization.  We should all be giving and receiving feedback when necessary to help people, teams and Rock continuously improve.

When Should We Give Feedback?

Immediately. Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, the longer you wait to provide feedback regarding a certain behavior, the less powerful that feedback will be.  Also, in the case of negative feedback, waiting could leave the other person feeling that you hold criticism back from them and carry around grudges that you do not share.  Immediate feedback breeds a culture of transparency and transparency will breed trust.

Where Should We Give Feedback?

  1. Positive Feedback should be shared with as big a relevant group (exec team, segment team, sales team, all of Rock, etc) as frequently possible IF YOU KNOW THE PERSON LIKES THIS LEVEL OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.  Don’t become a PR rep for people who are shy and prefer to be out of the limelight.
  2. Negative Feedback should always be given in private.

What Are the Elements of Feedback?

Attributes – Examples like:  Team player and hard-working (Positive) or hard to work with and too aggressive (nNegative).

Behaviors – Eamples like:  Proactively sharing best practices (Positive), low productivity/call volume (Negative).

We may be looking to change an attribute with feedback, but must keep in mind that this is the end, not the means.  When addressing feedback we should remember that we are focusing the conversation on the actual behaviors of the person to whom we are speaking, not merely the interpretations of those behaviors by you or other Rockers.  Behaviors are the cause, attributes the effects.

How to Give Feedback?

Use ‘’I’’ statements throughout to own the source of the feedback.  Be clear.  Be specific.  Use real examples of observed behavior.  Describe the consequence of not changing.  Offer a plan of action.  A feedback conversation should ideally be about 2 minutes long.  Preparation is key to achieving this efficiency so everyone should prepare for the conversations before having.

Step 1.  Introduce the Conversation

“I need to speak with you in private right now/today.  It’s regarding an area I think we need to work on right away and it’s important you know about it now..’’

Step 2.  Empathize

“I want you to be a better rep.”

‘’I want you to grow your career at Rock.’’

‘’I want to see you achieve the goal we talked about recently.’’

‘’I want to see you getting the most out your time here at Rock.’’

Step 3.  Describe the Observed Behavior (Recent & Specific)

‘’I have noticed that you…’’

Step 4.  Describe the Consequence

‘’This stuff concerns me because if it continues…’’

Step 5.  Invite Participation/Perspective

‘’What do you think about this?’’ (Expect Defensiveness)  ‘’I understand.  I want other people to see (X) which you are great at, not (Y) which I have been noticing.”

Step 6.  Make a Suggestion on How to Improve

“I want to make a suggestion/request.”

Step 7.  Gain Agreement on Next Steps

‘’Would you be willing to do that?’’

Step 8.  Say ‘’Thank You’’ and Use Labeling Theory

“”Thank you for talking about this with me and being the kind of person that is open-minded and willing to improve.’’

Follow-Up on Feedback

Use good judgment regarding how formal your follow-up should be situation to situation.  If someone is stinky and just needs to shower more, you probably don’t need to document this.  🙂  But if the feedback is more performance based or disciplinary you will likely benefit from sending a written summary of your conversation to document what was discussed and agreed upon.  Anything that needs HR involvement should and must always be documented in writing.  Written documentation is like an insurance policy.  You hope it sits in your outbox and you never need to use it, but if the behavior does not change, you will be thankful you have a written transcript of what was talked about last time.

Inviting Your Own Feedback

I recently sent an anonymous survey to the entire sales team asking them 3 simple questions.  What can should I start doing?  What should I stop doing?  What should I continue doing?  I left the answers open field and instructed people to answer however they see fit; professionally, personally, whatever.  The responses were eye-opening both from areas I really need to improve on that I was not noticing and also from misconceptions; situations people thought based on false information that I need to correct with better communication.  I strongly recommend inviting feedback like this, encourage direct feedback, but give the option for anonymity and request that they really let you have it.

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