To a manager, knowing how to give constructive feedback to employees properly is one of the most important skills in business. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, it's like having a tooth pulled without anesthetic. Every manager's dream is to have employees who never need to be criticized, but the fact is employees can only grow and learn if they are told what they are doing wrong and helped to improve. These are ways to make sure that employee criticism is both constructive and helpful.
- Don't call it criticism. Use words like constructive feedback, mentoring and coaching. No one likes to be criticized, but most people like to be mentored. People know that a coach helps a team win, and has the team members' best interests in mind.
- Have a plan. Decide what it is you want to address and how you intend to help the employee improve. Think of how to word it so that the person on the receiving end of your constructive feedback will be more receptive.
- Be as specific as possible. Don't use general, vague terms like "You aren't fast enough." Give specific examples, such as "You are not meeting production quotas in shipping."
- Show the employee the benefit of improvement. Link improvement to promotion, better pay or other benefits. Use constructive feedback to give an employee a reason to improve.
- Use positive language. Be sure that "never" or "always" don't slip into the conversation. These are generalizations that can stir emotions. Words like "can" and "could" make you look more flexible and create options.
- Be brief. Concentrate on one or two minor behaviors instead of overwhelming the employee with too much criticism, which can cause an employee to feel like he is hopelessly inept.
- Sandwich criticism with positive comments. Start off with praise, then criticism, then always finish with praise. No one does everything wrong. Let the employee know that you recognize what he does well.
- Give him an opportunity to respond. Ask some simple, multiple choice questions, such as "Do you feel I'm being reasonable?" or "Does this come as a surprise to you?" They can be the backbone of constructive feedback.
- Be ready to diffuse anger. Remember that anger is always a cover up for hurt. Diffuse anger by explaining that you understand why he is angry, and asking him to explain it to you.
- Discuss behavior as it occurs. Don't wait for review time, because this makes it seem like punishment, not constructive feedback. Employees need to feel as if they have had a chance to improve behaviors before they are reviewed. Always reinforce changed behavior with positive, constructive feedback.
By following these simple steps for giving constructive feedback to employees, you can avoid problems and decrease turnover. Put yourself in their place. Remember the worst boss you ever had, and try to be the opposite.
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