Give Feedback Without Making It Sound Like Criticism

feedback to employees workathlon

by Aias Katsaros, Account Manager/Recruiter & Makayla Roth, HR Intern| Workathlon

As Bill Gates says “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”. If that’s true, why does everyone hate it so much? Studies show that people would prefer receiving feedback over giving it. But, if you are in a supervisor/managerial position, it’s all part of the job. However, there is always a fear of being too rude. So how can you effectively provide it without making it sound like criticism?

Timing

When providing feedback, it is important to take timing into consideration. Not just the when but also the how often.

A lot of companies seem content with the annual feedback approach, but studies say that only doing a review once a year is extremely ineffective for multiple reasons. For one, a lot of things can happen in a year, and mentioning something that happened 8 months ago is will not yield great results. For example, you could accuse them of not doing something properly, but in truth, you don’t remember the situation correctly and accuse them of doing something they didn’t even do. This can create a more hostile environment for the employee and create some unnecessary drama within the office.

But on the other side of things, giving feedback too often is also not the best option. Some companies like to do weekly check-ins, but studies show that weekly check ins are just as ineffective. If they are done too often, the feedback will be taken a lot less seriously considering they get it all the time. If given once a week, you as the manager and them as an employee, will not be able to see the growth in the short term.

In other words, being too frequent and not frequent enough are both not ideal.

What should I avoid mentioning in a feedback meeting?

Before doing anything, make sure you check with yourself the reasons behind providing the feedback in the first place. If you are doing it because of your obsessive need to control everything, then maybe you should self-reflect first. But if you really think they will benefit from your advice, then by all means proceed!

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

1. Talk about the situation NOT the individual

Avoid saying things like: “you talk too much in meetings” and say things like “when you were talking in the meeting it was very distracting for those around you”.

2. Make suggestions not commands

Avoid saying things like: “you’re not listening” and make it more like: “Try to pay a little more attention in the meetings”.

3. Avoid judgements

Don’t say things that make it seem like you’re judging them. For example, if you say: “you’re the office gossip” you come across as rude and judgemental but if you say: “I heard you have been talking about your coworkers” .

DOWNLOAD THE FULL FEEDBACK TO EMPLOYEES GUIDE HERE.

So, what should I actually say?

Since each person is different, there is no perfect template but, there is something called the hamburger method that means exactly what it sounds like. The different parts of the hamburger represent different things. There are the two buns and the meat. Timetable using the hamburger method:

1st bun: Start off nice

Starting off light with a genuine compliment by your side will reduce the tension of being in this situation and set the meeting in a positive vibe. Both parties will be then more relaxed and open to communication.

Meat: The criticisms

This part will not be easy. But just like how the meat is the whole reason you got a hamburger, it is also the whole reason you are having this meeting. You can’t begin improving without first knowing what could be improved.

2nd Bun: Finish off with strong Morale

After giving them some critiques, they will probably be feeling pretty low. Because of this, remind them of ways to improve. Give them hope that they will be able to get better and move forward. Finish off with a compliment of their work and end the meeting.

Overall, to have good employer – employee relations, it’s important to have that two-way communication. If you are just constantly telling them what to do, they will eventually stop listening since their voice isn’t being heard. So, maximise their chances of improvement and growth, by motivating, communicating and being kind to them.  

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