How To Give Helpful Feedback at Work

Posted February 4, 2020, by Jenny

Moving your way up to a managerial position is a huge step in your career and one that you should be very proud of achieving. But it does come with its own set of struggles that you will have to work your way through. One of the main requirements of your role is to offer feedback to your staff that enables them to learn and grow and better themselves in their position.

If you have moved up within the same company, then some of the colleagues you worked alongside are now below you on the ladder, placing you in charge of their performance. This changes the working relationship significantly and can make things, such as providing feedback, difficult.

Likewise, if you step into a new position at a whole new company, you want to put your best foot forward and ensure you get on well with your team. This can be tricky when you need to offer feedback on performance.

Here are some great tips that will enable you to give helpful feedback at work, while maintaining a solid professional relationship with your colleagues.

Talk About The Situation, Not The Person

Not all feedback is going to be positive, and it’s no secret that the negative kind is much harder to give. It’s important to think it through before you meet with your employee and ensure you know exactly what you want to get out of the meeting. For example, going into a meeting just to hound an employee about something they did wrong isn’t constructive and will lead nowhere good.

No-one likes to hear what they have done wrong or when they aren’t performing well, so if you have negative feedback to give, keep it focused on the situation, rather than the person. In other words, don’t make it personal. 

For example, if you tell them that the last article they wrote for your paper was so boring readers couldn’t even make it through the first paragraph, this will make your employee feel very bad about themselves and doubt their abilities. If you flip it to focus on ways to give their writing a bit more flair, they will see exactly how they can move forward and improve for the next time. It’s a subtle difference, but a key one.

Think about your words and be prepared before going into the meeting.

Don’t Just Focus On The Negative

When something goes wrong or isn’t done right, managers can be all too quick to jump on top of it and correct the situation. And with good reason. But at the same time, it is also important to pay the same amount of attention to the good things that happen as well.

You want to be able to build team morale and open your staff up to these types of conversations. If they come to only expect negative feedback out of your mouth, they will loathe these discussions and it can have a huge impact on team morale and how they view your role.

Positive feedback also works as a great motivator. It will make your employees more receptive to being told when something isn’t quite right if they are equally praised when everything goes perfectly. Even the little things matter – you shouldn’t have to search hard to find something you can praise a staff member about.

Make It Timely

Employees and employers alike dread performance reviews. You don’t want a build-up of feedback fed out to you long after the event. A great way to take the pressure off these reviews is to give continual feedback throughout the year.

It is much better to address any issues in a timely manner, while they are fresh in everyone’s mind. It also comes as less of a shock to your employee if it is done right after the event. Think of it like you are in a fight with your partner at home. You move on and six months later they bring up issues from it. It makes you feel like they have been harbouring this resentment for you and waiting for an opportunity to pounce. You don’t want to make your staff members feel this way.

It is much easier to give feedback after one single event, straight after it happens, rather than bulk feedback at a later date in one sitting. It is also the best way to ensure mistakes don’t happen again. By leaving it for a couple of months, you lose the opportunity to put some practical measures in place to stop the same mistakes from happening again. If things are addressed a way forward can be sorted out as quickly as possible.

Ensure Feedback Is Done In Private

No matter how you word it, no one likes negative feedback, so it can help to ensure you always give it privately. This avoids any scrutiny from their colleagues, especially those who have no clue about the situation or what has transpired. It also makes it much easier to focus and have an open chat about it when people aren’t watching on.

You don’t need to make a big deal out of it. The best idea is to send out a private meeting request so your employee knows it is coming. This will give them a chance to think about the situation themselves, and allows them to contribute to the conversation as well. You don’t want to take them by surprise or put them on the spot. 

Encourage A Conversation

Leading on from the last tip, employees want to be heard, so make sure you are open to listening. They may have their own side to what happened, or may even be aware of what they have done and how they intend to improve. Giving them the opportunity to get this out in a conversation allows for their own personal growth. It also shows you that they are aware of their mistakes and are willing to work on them, which is a great sign.

Once again, this also takes the focus off them personally. Talk as a team and make it a team problem that you can solve together. This encourages conversations and solutions that both parties can support.

In fact, you can start off with some questions about the situation at hand and see how your employee responds. This is the perfect way to gauge how they feel about the events that have taken place and what their thoughts on it are. This is a great way to get the conversation started and lead into your own feedback for them. You never know, they may come up with a solution that you hadn’t even considered yourself.

Own Up To Your Mistakes

As a manager, it is also important to set an example. If there is an area you underperformed in, bring this up in a discussion with your staff members. This shows that you aren’t above feedback yourself, and are aware of things you might have done wrong as well. 

On the other hand, if you go around making mistakes that you don’t acknowledge, yet are quick to jump on your staff members for making mistakes of their own, it won’t reflect well on you at all. Of course, you can also share the positive things you have done with your team too.

Follow Up

If you have given feedback on a particular piece of work that they then fix after your feedback, then be sure to follow up on it. Give them praise for any positive changes you see. As mentioned above, the positive feedback is important, so make note of it.

Giving feedback doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds, but it does have to be done the right way. It is a bit like interviewing for a job, it takes practise and time to perfect. Remember, you are only human too. If you feel a meeting doesn’t go as planned, improve for next time, or even address it with that employee after thinking about what went wrong.


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