Employee Feedback

How to Guide on Employee Feedback Best Practices


Your Open Door Policy was Slammed in My Face

Go ahead and admit it, you would much rather avoid giving feedback, than to give it. Is this because when you give feedback you are investing in a relationship and the more significant the relationship the more you have to lose if the feedback goes wrong? Who wants take that risk. Like with many other things that lead to success, your skills are critical. Unskilled feedback (no matter how well intentioned) can severely damage a relationship.     

Poorly given feedback is counter-productive. It undermines an employee’s confidence and even alienates them. Tip: Training employees and leadership in receiving feedback is just as important as giving feedback if you want an open culture. So are you slamming the door on feedback because of poor employee development practices?     

Probably no surprise to you, but research indicates that senior employees are less open to feedback. They are successful; life has taught them a lot of lessons – they don’t need to be told and have little to learn (so they think).     

Managers are often seen as unapproachable. Their effectiveness is reduced if employees are hesitant about providing feedback to them. They have restricted information on which to base their impressions and make decisions.     

Organizations that are not open, or do not encourage continuous two-way feedback to inform their decisions and actions continuously underperform their more open competitors. For them employees become secretive and form cliques where they feel they can talk freely – most probably complaining about a lack of openness in the organization!     

What is “Feedback” Anyway

Here is one fundamental mistake that is made. Feedback is about sharing your reactions to another person’s ideas, feelings or behavior. It is not about assigning blame, criticism or passing judgement. Feedback is a way of letting someone know to what extent he or she is furthering the objectives of the business. It’s about people and you. It is a conversation about your needs whilst respecting the needs of the other person. This leads to problem solving on both sets of needs. Feedback is most productive as a two-way communication.     

Feedback is probably the most powerful, the most under-used and most ill-used management tool.     

Isn’t it Just a Waste of Time?

Without feedback people are ‘blind’. They are working on their own assumptions of how they are performing to meet the business’ needs and how they are impacting others. Feedback enhances employee’s effectiveness. Conducted properly, feedback ‘fine tunes’ performance and strengthens relationships.     

In organizations where feedback is uncommon, communication flows from the top to the bottom with employees feeling devalued, resistant and demoralized resulting in their disengagement and under performance.     

For many employees, feedback is the single most important element in building and sustaining their motivation and engagement.     

In a business culture where openness is valued, feedback will be a regular occurrence – i.e. feedback upwards, downwards and sideways. Employees will engage in frank conversations about real work and relationship issues. In organizations where this feedback is welcomed and used to create win-win results, openness becomes the norm; employees feel more motivated, engaged and wanting to contribute.     

Key Feedback indicators and behaviors

Organizations that have open environments focus on some specific indicators and display the associated behaviors shown in the table below.

Key Indicators Associated Behaviors
Feedback to my managers is encouraged. Managers hold meetings to seek feedback on performance;Managers thank employees for providing feedback;Managers do not become defensive or aggressive when receiving feedback;Managers act on valid feedback.
I receive regular constructive feedback on my performance. I meet with my manager frequently to discuss my performance;My manager only provides feedback on my performance, not on my personality;My manager’s feedback encourages and helps improve my performance;My manager is open and honest when giving feedback.
I feel free to give feedback to my managers and colleagues. Managers and colleagues recognize the importance of feedback;Managers and colleagues are receptive to feedback;Managers and colleagues listen attentively to my feedback;Managers and colleagues thank me for providing feedback.
I feel able to ask for feedback from my managers and colleagues. My manager encourages me to ask for feedback from my colleagues;Managers and colleagues are receptive to my requests for feedback;I feel comfortable asking managers and colleagues for feedback;I feel everyone benefits from an open and honest exchange of feedback.

Tips to Improving Feedback Performance

Here are some suggestions for improving the quality and frequency of feedback:     

  • Be approachable and have time for people’s issues;
  • Ask your managers and colleagues for feedback;

1.  “How much do you feel I understand you?”     

2.  “How much do you feel I meet your needs?”     

3.  “How much do you feel I am getting it right for you?”     

  • Show you value this feedback by problem-solving on the issues rather than attempt to justify, blame or criticize;
  • At times it might be useful to ask for feedback on how you gave or received the feedback;
  • Incorporate a feedback session into meetings;
  • Develop your skills for giving feedback;
  • Develop your skills for receiving feedback;
  • Invite a third party to coach or observe a one-to-one feedback session;
  • Involve employees in developing action plans for creating the no whining culture
  • When there is a need to discuss poor work, do this in private and follow the guidelines for giving feedback
  • Make feedback a ”Key Performance Indicator” for managers and track this (available in the Beyond Morale system);
  • Invite specialists to work with the organization to specifically improve the quality and frequency of feedback;
  • Score yourself on the associated behaviors linked to the Key Performance Indicator of Feedback, and share your answers with relevant colleagues;
  • Score yourself on how well you are doing the suggestions above and use the results to decide on an agenda for action.

Focus on the items above and that open door just might not be slammed in your face in the future.

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