As a manager, do you provide regular feedback to employees to let them know if they’re doing a good job or how they might improve their productivity? Many of us may think we do, but unfortunately, feedback is often negative or given informally.
“Feedback is an important part of every supervisor-employee relationship – it informs employees about the quality of their performance,” says Bob Milligan, an emeritus professor from Cornell University and human-resource consultant to the ag industry.
Without feedback an employee becomes uncertain as to how he’s doing and how he might improve job performance. This uncertainty is frustrating, de-motivating and hinders productivity. Employee uncertainty often results in job hunting – especially among employees driven to succeed.
There’s an art to giving feedback.Milligan says the first guideline for giving feedback is to focus on the performance, not the person.
The second important guideline is to recognize that there are three forms of feedback: positive, negative and redirection.
“Positive feedback should only be given to reward successful performance and to reinforce that the action or performance should be repeated,” says Milligan.
He says a common mistake is to use positive feedback to “be nice” in response to good intentions. Unsuccessful performance with good intentions calls for redirection feedback instead, Milligan explains.
Use redirection feedback when performance does not meet the standard due to something out of the employee’s control – such as lack of training, ineffective supervision, unpredictable circumstances or unreasonable expectations.
Redirection feedback stops the incorrect performance and redirects using training or other strategies. To give redirection feedback, Milligan offers these tips:
Use negative feedback when performance does not meet expectations, and the failure to perform can only be explained by the employee’s personal characteristics and behaviors – such as lack of motivation, effort, attention to detail or commitment.
Milligan also emphasizes that negative feedback must produce sufficient consequence to cause a change in employee behavior. He says a reprimand, punishment, demotion, or removing privileges are sample consequences that may be used.
To provide negative feedback, Milligan suggests:
In situations that require negative feedback, Milligan says, “Be prepared to make the consequence progressive. For instance, make it clear that repeating the undesired behavior will lead to more severe consequences, perhaps even probation, which could lead to dismissal.
Document situations when an employee does not address behavior and performance issues. You want to prevent future “he said-she said” standoffs.
Providing negative feedback does not make youthe bad guy; rather you’re providing the employee a choice of correcting the poor performance or incurring the consequence, Milligan says.
It’s important to balance positive, redirection and negative feedback as necessary, he adds.
Milligan offers these additional tips:
Human resource consultant Bob Milligan suggests that holding a review session with employees for 15-30 minutes each month is less formal – and often more beneficial – than an annual performance appraisal. These sessions create an ideal opportunity to provide appropriate positive, redirection or negative feedback. With a focus on two important questions, below is an informal agenda Milligan suggests using: