And let’s be clear here – I don’t mean “howl with laughter” as if you’re having a good time.
I mean howl as in a long, loud, doleful cry uttered by a shape-shifting werewolf on the darkest night of the year. Excuse the drama, but it is the Halloween season.
And face it, when it comes to giving employee feedback, there’s really nothing scarier or more frustrating especially when you don’t know how to do it effectively.
There are a few ways to combat “feedback phobia” and keep the howling at bay. These include but are not limited to:
- Shock therapy (too extreme)
- Catching the next bus to anywhere (yes, the coward’s option, but an option nonetheless)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (sounds overly complicated)
- Arming yourself with some practical feedback know-how (in case you’re wondering, this is the right answer)
Okay, so let’s face the fear head-on with these best practice tips that will help you to give effective feedback to your employees.
What you should do when giving employee feedback
1. Give feedback all year round: That’s right. Effectively managing employee performance means you should give employees ongoing feedback all year round. If other priorities start taking over your time (like howling at the moon), make sure giving employee performance feedback isn’t pushed off your radar. Try booking one hour each week in your calendar to make notes on employee performance and then offer your feedback and comments back verbally or in writing. Remember to keep a journal where you make notes on any successes, incidents and challenges as they happen — so no one gets a fright when you present feedback.
2. Hold formal performance review meetings quarterly: Best-in-class companies conduct quarterly, mini-performance review meetings. Even if your organization doesn't require quarterly reviews (full moon optional), you can still conduct them yourself. Meet with each employee and do a quick review of their goals and development plans, and give them verbal and written feedback on their performance.
3. Make sure feedback is constructive: If feedback is mean or improper, it’s not going to motivate anyone to improve their performance. So think about and be cautious with your delivery. Remember to make feedback timely (and specific!) — don’t wait several weeks to provide it. Help your employee understand how they can address the feedback going forward.
4. Ensure feedback is properly directed: Sometimes feelings and frustrations can take over a situation, and feedback shared in the heat of the moment without the benefit of knowing all the facts. Make sure you have all the information before you act, if not, you could jeopardize your relationship with your employee.
A tip on what not to do when giving employee feedback
Have you heard of the sandwich approach to feedback? That’s when someone sandwiches the bad feedback between two pieces of good feedback. The idea is that, when presented with positive, the negative is much easier for recipient to digest. Or that’s the idea anyway.
But according to a post on the HBR Blog Network, the sandwich approach isn’t the ideal way to give feedback. In fact, the post cautions how this approach can actually undermine your feedback and your relationship with you direct reports:
“Effective leaders are transparent about the strategies they use when working with others. The sandwich approach is designed to influence others without telling them what you’re doing — it is a unilaterally controlling strategy — in other words, a strategy that revolves around you influencing others, but not being influenced by them in return.”
So the next time you think of taking the sandwich
approach to giving feedback — hold the bread, the lettuce, the meat, the
cheese, the mayo, the… you get the idea — NO sandwich.
Takeaway: Best practices can reduce howling
Now that you have some tips to share with your managers on how to make feedback easier and more effective, you’ll probably notice less howling and more meaningful conversations that drive positive action and boost employee engagement. No shape-shifting required.