Let’s take a look at some typical examples of what goes on in work environments when managers don’t give good feedback.
Example #1: John has been working at his new job for one month. On his first day at work, Wilma, his boss, showed him what to do and got him started on a project. Since then, Wilma has communicated with him mostly through voice mail and e-mail. She walks past his cubicle and says hello a few times each day, but there hasn’t been much other communication. John is assuming he is doing his job properly, but he really isn’t sure.
Analysis: There is no feedback here. John has no idea whether he is doing his job properly.
Solution: Wilma should have given John a detailed job description on the first day. She should have gone over his first project as soon as he finished it, making certain he understood the task and completed it properly. She also should have checked in with him regularly to make certain he was doing his job correctly and to see whether he had any questions.
Example #2: Stella works in an office. Yesterday, she spent several hours filing a huge stack of folders that her boss had given her in the morning. When she got to work today, her boss came over to her desk and yelled, “Stella! You did those files all wrong! Don’t you listen?” He said it so loudly that Stella’s three office mates turned toward her in shock. He went back into his office and slammed the door.
Analysis: This manager’s behavior is abusive. It lowers her self-esteem and frightens her coworkers. An atmosphere of fear also lowers productivity and encourages sabotage and turnover.
Solution: He should have delivered the feedback calmly and in private. He should also have asked her for her understanding of the task; perhaps there was a reason for it being done the way it was. Third, he should have been specific about what she did wrong.
Example #3: Angela asked Steve, her assistant, to call a list of 20 clients and set up phone interviews for next Thursday and Friday (the 20th and 21st). She provided Steve with an updated list of phone numbers and told him the hours she would be available to speak with the clients. When Angela came back from lunch today, Steve had left a list of interviews on her desk. He has set them up for this Thursday and Friday (the 13th and 14th). He also has written, next to four of the clients’ names, “wrong phone number.” As she picks up the phone to reschedule the first client, she says to herself, “See, you just can’t get good help these days.”
Analysis: As far as we can tell, there was no feedback to this employee.
Solution: Employees have a hard time learning if they are not given feedback. This manager should have talked to Steve calmly and in private. She should also have asked Steve what he understood the task to be and why he scheduled the interviews for the wrong dates. Finally, she should have asked Steve to reschedule the calls for the correct dates.
Now that we’ve looked at a few examples of what can happen when performance feedback isn’t given effectively, let’s talk about some principles for doing it well. The five simple steps are:
Let’s use the third example above to illustrate how this might look.
Let’s take a look at some other issues to consider when giving feedback to someone who works on your team.
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