You may remember that I started a new series called Business Discussion Topics (see post). I asked you, my readers to suggest topics you wanted me to discuss. A fellow Business English teacher wrote to me and asked me if I would write a post about giving feedback. The idea had come from one of her students who complained that his boss rarely gave him feedback – both positive and negative- and he found it most frustrating.

I’ve decided to file this post under my Business Skills series because I thought I’d look at what managers should NOT do when giving feedback. In other words, I thought I’d write a tips based post.

Feedback is one the most powerful tools for motivating and developing staff and yet, there are so many managers who avoid giving feedback and if they do, it’s often badly delivered. The result is a frustrated staff force.  Here are 8 “don’ts” of giving feedback.

1. Don’t use the compliment sandwich approach

What’s this, I hear you say? Well, a compliment sandwich is feedback that starts with a compliment, then something bad and ends with a compliment again.

Let’s take a look:

“I really like that shirt you’re wearing. It’s really colourful”.
“I don’t think it’s really appropriate for the office, though”.
“But, I love your taste”.

What’s wrong with this approach? Well, it can be completely misunderstood. The recipient will either hear all the praise or all the criticism. If you need to give critical feedback, don’t ‘sandwich’ it between compliments. Be direct.

2. Don’t delay giving feedback

If there’s a problem with an employee’s work, deal with the problem immediately. Don’t delay and allow your frustrations to grow because you will end up venting that frustration and making things personal. Giving regular feedback should be something that comes naturally. It will help your employees know how they are doing and what is expected of them.

3. Don’t give negative feedback only

There are some managers I’ve worked with who only knew how to deliver critical (negative) feedback but never said a word when one of us had done a good job. That can be so demoralising. People need to know when they’ve done well too because it creates a sense of well-being and accountability. If I know my good work is recognised, I am more likely to keep doing good work.

4. Don’t be unkind

There are some managers who enjoy making their feedback personal and demeaning (humiliating). There is no need for that. Not if you want loyalty from your staff and you want them to develop professionally.

5.  Don’t generalise – be specific

When giving feedback, refer to specific examples. Don’t generalise. Don’t say “You’re slow in submitting reports”. Say instead, “You’ve been late in submitting the last two sales reports “.

The same is true for giving praise or positive feedback. Don’t just say, “You’re doing a great job”. Say instead, “Your last article for the magazine was excellent”.

6. Don’t make giving feedback a special event

You should give feedback regularly to encourage behaviour you want to see more of, to prevent bad habits from becoming ingrained, and foster an atmosphere of open communication. Providing feedback regularly can also allow you to address potential problems while they’re still small, rather than telling an employee that what they’ve been doing for months is wrong.

7. Don’t not tell them how they can change 

When you’ve giving corrective feedback, give a concrete and detailed description of what your employee needs to improve or change.
You could say something like: ” What I think you could do even better is ……”.
It’s important that what you’re asking them to change or improve is doable. They cannot change their personality but they can change their behaviour.

Feedback must be given for the purpose of helping your employees improve or change and hear from you the impact their actions or behaviour have.

8.  Don’t wait for the annual performance review

So many managers wait for the annual performance review to give their employees feedback instead of giving regular, ongoing feedback throughout the year. In fact, if anything in an evaluation is a surprise to the employee, it’s a sign that the manager hasn’t been doing their job.

If you’re a manager do you give regular feedback? Do you receive feedback as an employee? Does your company have an efficient feedback system? I’d love to know what your thoughts are about feedback culture in companies in your country.

I hope you found this post helpful. Please share it with your colleagues if you think they could find it helpful too.

Ciao for now


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