Performance Feedback: Communication, not criticism, you must give and receive

Performance Feedback: Communication, not criticism, you must give and receive

Dell - Feedback Meeting Flickr CC -
Dell - Feedback Meeting Flickr CC -

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2014 – Performance feedback is lacking in our work environments.  The examples are limitless, but here are some relevant ones.

  • Case one – an employee fails to show up for a meeting with a supervisor, the supervisor lets it go without ever addressing it.
  • Case two – an employee is using his cell phone during client meetings.  He was told to stop using his cell phone during client meetings, but he used it the next client meeting once again.  The issue was never raised again.
  • Case three – two supervisors have ten employees between them.  Each supervisor is annoyed because the other supervisor seems to have more access to the employees and seems to assign them more work before the other supervisor has a chance to make assignments.  To address this issue, the second supervisor stops delegating and performs the tasks herself.
  • Case four – an employee does a stupendous job on a project and the client sends an email to his supervisor thanking the supervisor for assigning an exemplary employee to the project.  The supervisor thanks the client but does nothing further.
  •  Case five– an employee makes the same mistakes repeatedly in his work.  The supervisor or a coworker corrects it for him.  He is never told about the mistakes.

What do all of these cases have in common?  Someone ends up with extra work.  The employees who are making mistakes do not improve.  Those who are performing well are not incentivized to continue their good work or to improve.

In each of these cases, the supervisor made excuses for not providing feedback.  In the first case, the supervisor said it was his fault because the meeting he scheduled was “informal so maybe the employee did not realize she should have actually attended.”  In case two, the entire staff made excuses for this employee because “he is only an intern and will be leaving the office soon.”  In case three, the supervisor said that the other supervisor’s work was likely more important.  In case four, the supervisor just did not think about forwarding the thank you to the employee or discussing it with him.  In case five, the supervisor said “it was no big deal and does not take much time, so I do not mind correcting his mistakes.”

Every person in these scenarios is damaged goods.  We should commiserate most with the intern.  He is young and inexperienced.  He needs the feedback to advance in his career.  He needs a stern talking to and some mentoring.  Yet, he will never receive it and his bad habits will carry to his next job.

In instances where supervisors make excuses and are incorrectly “sacrificing” their own best interests and time, the company experiences inexcusable and costly inefficiencies. Each of the employees who needs feedback to improve or to be encouraged to work harder, are left without the information they need to do so.

What prevents a supervisor from providing needed and timely feedback?  We reviewed their excuses, but what is the underlying cause of their excuse-making?

The main reason is indirect communication.  In order to appear polite, kind, and supportive, they communicate indirectly to avoid the potential for a negative interaction.  There is a simple solution to this problem – ask for a confidential meeting, prepare clear notes with examples of the issues causing a problem, address the issues directly, set expectations for all participants and follow-up to be sure corrections are made.

Most importantly – be nice and polite during feedback sessions.  Feedback does not require emotions and emotions should be avoided at all costs.  It confuses your audience – they cannot focus on your message when your emotions are observable.

Lack of feedback is also caused by the difficult schedules we all work under.  Many employees do not see each other in the work day or even for several days in a row.  In most cases, feedback is not appropriate over the telephone or over email.  It is necessary to have a one-on-one meeting.  Supervisors and employees need to make the time to have those meetings or the problems will grow exponentially.

Feedback is critical in the workplace.  Too much or too little can damage an employee’s capabilities, confidence, productivity and the list goes on.  Tactful and timely feedback will create a successful workplace.  If your office does not offer classes in providing and receiving feedback, perhaps it is time to suggest one.

This week’s prescription:  Give it and receive it!

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