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5 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback As a Manager

Feedback — a combination of collaboration, transparency and continuous communication — is key to maximizing employee engagement and performance. Executed properly, it gives employees the knowledge, confidence and trust to strive for full potential. Unfortunately, however, feedback often is delivered too infrequently or, worse, ineffectively.

Employees want constructive feedback, and they want it to occur more frequently than in annual reviews. Interestingly, they also tend to rate managers more highly for being honest and straightforward in reviews. Failing to provide feedback jeopardizes employees' ability to function in their department and can lead to staff turnover. This hurts a company's bottom line, because it costs 30%-50% of annual salaries to replace entry-level employees and upwards of 150% to replace mid-level employees.

Some recommendations for giving constructive feedback:

  1. Set face-to-face sessions

The very act of formalizing feedback into routine meetings establishes a tone that you value professional development as a manager. It provides additional incentive for employees to take their own growth seriously and to track their performance against objective measures. It also suggests a transparent process. From the time you introduce the subject, outline at every stage the company policy on reviews, what the company will bring, what the employee will bring, and what the employee can expect.

  1. Provide ongoing and specific feedback

As close to real time as possible, your employees need to hear how to improve. Offer examples of what they have done and what they should do differently. Give feedback throughout the year, and use the annual review to formalize a plan for continued improvement. If the feedback is negative, make sure to have a private discussion. 

  1. Incorporate growth and empathy mindsets

In all of your feedback communications, informal and formal, remember that employee performance is always fluid, never static. Employees should not dread negative feedback, because they are works in progress, as are their supervisors. To create a growth mindset, frame feedback to focus on actions, rather than traits. Actions are more readily improved. When you do have to deliver a negative evaluation, be empathetic and allow time for the shock of your message to be absorbed. Let the employee respond, then facilitate a constructive dialogue that leads to solutions.

  1. Avoid negative surprises

The yearly face-to-face should not be your colleague's first exposure to a negative assessment. When employees hear for the first time in a review that they are underperforming — especially when they consider the appraisal flawed — they often vent to co-workers. Over time, this can build apprehension about the process.

  1. Set expectations for positive outcomes

This can include rewards for meeting expectations, career path guidance, and mutual plans for professional development. Rewards for strong performance can include positive outcomes such as near-term and long-term opportunities within the company.

Feedback is vital to the success of your employee, your organization and even yourself as a manager. These tips can help you give it more effectively, thereby ensuring everyone's greatest opportunity for success.

Learn more about SIUE's MBA with a Management Specialization online program.


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