A recent Wall Street Journal piece discussed new research on employees who embrace negative feedback. The article notes that “people who thrive on feedback tend to be strivers who believe they can improve their skills and abilities. They’ve embraced personal goals so compelling that they see criticism as a tool for helping reach them, rather than a setback. They have close friends at work, and they also tend to be strong on both self-control and self-awareness.” These employees are surely a rare breed. Whether your employees love or hate criticism, it is sometimes necessary to provide it. Here are the top five best practices for offering constructive feedback:
1. No surprises.
Employees shouldn’t first learn about their weaknesses in an annual review. Regular feedback, both negative and positive, should be given in real time. This is when the assignment is freshest in everyone’s mind and there is an opportunity to correct any issues. There is even an HR movement to do away with annual performance reviews altogether and replace them with instant feedback.
The feedback should focus on a problem that can be corrected. This is a good rule of thumb for feedback in any situation. Telling your wife she has a stain on her dress before she leaves the house is helpful. Telling her that she has a stain on her dress after she gave a speech in front of hundred people is not. If the correction is achievable, then the feedback is useful.
The goal of constructive feedback is to correct a problem. For example, telling an employee that he is lazy doesn’t give him enough guidance to correct the behavior. Instead, you should offer concrete examples such as, “You arrived 10 minutes late every day this week.” or “I observed you playing Tetris on your computer twice.”
Even a well-intentioned critique in a staff meeting can feel like a public rebuke to the recipient. There are some office cultures that practice “radical transparency.” Bridgewater Associates, for example, requires its employees to express their viewpoints and disagree openly. Not everyone is cut out for that culture. If your workplace isn’t actively practicing this concept, it is better to offer feedback in a private setting.
5. Create a performance improvement plan.
Constructive feedback should have a measurable outcome. Once you have proposed a specific, achievable critique, evaluate whether the employee improves over a period of time. Alternatively, document the feedback at the time it is given and incorporate it into performance appraisals. This way you are offering real time feedback, but better able to measure performance over time.
Would you like to learn more about offering feedback to your employees? Contact an MBA HR Consultant today.