Performance Feedback

Truth or Consequences: The Right Way to Give Performance Feedback

Why is it that many of us put off giving performance feedback to our employees? Even though we intuitively know that giving and getting honest feedback is essential to grow and develop and to build successful organizations? Maybe it is because there are so many ways to screw it up.

Common Performance Feedback Mistakes

Here are ten common performance feedback mistakes and just four things to remember to do it right:

  1. Speaking out only when things are wrong.
  2. “Drive-by” praise without specifics or an honest underpinning. “Great job!”
  3. Waiting until performance or behavior is substantially below expectations before acting on it.
  4. Giving positive or negative performance feedback long after the event has occurred.
  5. Not taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and reactions. “This comes straight from the boss.”
  6. Giving performance feedback through e-mail messages, notes or over the telephone.
  7. Giving negative feedback in public.
  8. Criticizing performance without giving suggestions for improvement.
  9. No follow up afterwards.
  10. Not having regularly scheduled performance review meetings.

Giving and receiving clear and constructive performance feedback requires courage and skill. And in fact is essential to building good relationships with and motivating peak performance from your team.

How to Do It Right

Here are four tips for what to do right:

  1. Be proactive. Nip issues in the bud and avoid the messy interpersonal tangles that result from neglected communication. Meeting with employees on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of annually, for example, conveys, “Your success is important to me, so I want to be accessible to you.”
  2. Be specific. It’s never easy to provide negative feedback regarding someone’s work, but as a leader you can’t avoid it. Be as clear as possible when providing performance feedback (both positive and negative). Give specific examples that illustrate your points. For example, instead of saying, “Your attitude is bad” or “That didn’t work,” you might say something like, “When you miss deadlines, then cross your arms and look away when I discuss it with you, it gives me the impression that you don’t care about the quality of your work. I’d like to believe this isn’t true. Can you help me explain this better?”
  3. Develop a progress plan. Be clear about the specific changes in behavior that you expect in a specific period of time. Then accordingly follow up as scheduled.
  4. Link employees’ performance to organizational goals. Reinforce the value of your employees’ contributions. For example, you can give specific examples of how their work and positive behaviors serve the organization and its customers.

If you are not doing these things, why would anyone else in your organization do them?

Although the talent journey will be continuous, you should expect impact in your efforts within the first year. Expect huge impact in the first year and craft a program that will achieve that.