No matter what role we may have within an organisation, most of us have some opportunity to give feedback. The way we talk to someone about their work could be very good, or very bad, for the person, the organisation, and you. Knowing why it’s important can help you know how to deliver it.

Why workplace feedback is essential

Jon Windust, CEO of Cognology, provider of people-management solutions, maintains that the right feedback is a simple yet powerful tool for improving performance. “Delivering great feedback is cheap, easy to learn, and there’s no shortage of expert advice out there on how to do it well.”

He’s right, of course. So why do so many workers complain that they don’t get the feedback they are so desperate to hear? Victor Lipman, of Howling Wolf Management Training, suggests three excuses—and how to get around them.

1. Managers don’t have the time

This is simply a matter of poor prioritisation. Informal, personal feedback that employees crave hardly takes up any time.

2. Giving personal, candid feedback can be uncomfortable

Quite so—you’re dealing with people’s feelings and futures. But uncomfortable feedback may help your employee and your organisation to grow. Just do it.

3. Poor management selection and training

Ouch. That’s close to the bone. A good manager has the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

How to give workplace feedback

Jon Windust nicely focuses on our reasons for giving feedback in the first place. Either we want to: reinforce good behaviour; or correct poor behaviour.

Whichever of these two goals you need to aim for, the following four principles form a useful framework into which you add the specifics.

1. Situation

Start by clearly providing the context of specific events that prompted the feedback.

2. Observation

What action did the employee take?

3. Result

This is the outcome of that action.

4. Takeaway

This is what you want to happen from now on. It could be more of the same, or a course correction.

How to deliver constructive workplace feedback

This same four-step formula applies for feedback to a team, or to an individual. Whether your feedback is positive or negative will help you determine the best way to deliver the message. Consider the personalities and past record of the employee(s). Are you addressing a serious error? A mildly successful innovation? Should the credit/criticism go to just one individual or should it be shared?

All constructive feedback, whether good or bad, shows that you are interested in both the job and the people doing it. Make it a regular feature of interactions with your team.


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