Bad feedback kills engagement. Here’s how to do it better.
By Hebba Youssef
I have a secret to share. I am addicted to self improvement. There I said it! I always want to know what I’m doing well and what I could improve. Feedback is my drug of choice.
But… I haven’t worked in many places where I get regular, actionable feedback. I don’t think many folks have. And when employees get feedback it’s usually… not helpful.
People don’t forget the terrible feedback they’ve gotten (check out these horror stories from my network on LinkedIn).
Would it surprise you to know that there is a connection between feedback and employee engagement?
- Provide an opportunity to give recognition
- Show a commitment to employee’s learning and career development
- Foster authenticity
- Better align employees
When employees receive feedback:
- 85% take more initiative in the workplace
- 73% are better collaborators
- 48% care more about their work
A large part of a manager’s job is giving feedback but many aren’t prepared for that part of the job with 87% of managers wishing they had more management training.
Feedback, when delivered poorly, can be harmful to employee engagement and performance.
Don’t let feedback be a reason why your employees aren’t engaged!
Why is feedback so hard to give?
Let me set the scene: palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy… It’s time to give some feedback. IYKYK
Don’t lie, you’ve been there. The feedback nerves are real!
Giving feedback can be nerve wracking because:
- We’re uncomfortable
- We’re afraid
- We lack understanding
- We don’t have the time
We’re uncomfortable: humans are selfish and truthfully if we could pick between being comfortable and being uncomfortable which do you think people would pick? Comfort, obviously.
We’re afraid: This is a safe space, it’s okay to say it. Giving feedback is scary. Why? Because you never know how the other person is going to react and you don’t want to ruin a relationship! It’s human nature to get defensive when receiving feedback. Our brains treat any type of criticism as a threat to our self esteem.
We lack understanding: Most of us haven’t been trained on how to give feedback and are unsure how to deliver the feedback!
We don’t have the time: The interpersonal part of managing, like coaching, isn’t always acknowledged as a main part of your job. BUT IT IS.
The 4 different types of feedback:
Okay, you’ve wiped those sweaty palms away and you’ve decided it’s time to give some feedback. Before I jump instantly into what framework to use I think it’s helpful to understand what type of feedback you’re going to give.
- Directive feedback: telling someone what to do like you need to do X
- Contingency feedback: focuses on future consequences like if you keep missing deadlines your stakeholders will stop trusting you
- Attribution feedback: uses a label or quality to describe actions like you’re a good communicator or you’re unfocused
- Impact feedback: describes the impact of actions on others or the organization. It connects WHY certain behaviors are working or not like when you put agendas for meetings ahead of time it helps keep us on the same page and make effective use of our time together.
Feedback can be positive where it recognizes what is going well and celebrates and reinforces the behaviors you want to see.
Or feedback can be constructive. I prefer to call this type of feedback areas of opportunity rather than negative feedback. This feedback focuses on behaviors you want to change or highlights an area of weakness.
The feedback framework you need:
Conversations at work are riddled with misperceptions and misunderstandings. Don’t be that manager that assumes anything when you’re delivering feedback!
You need a feedback framework that bridges the gap between intent and impact. This framework is meant to do just that!
There are a few feedback frameworks out there but I have a favorite: the SBI model from the Center for Creative Leadership. Let me break it down for you!
Situation: describe the situation in which you observed the behavior
- Ex: in that team meeting, at the conference, during our 1:1
- Be as specific as possible and timely. Do not bring up things that happened last month.
Behavior: describe the behavior or reaction in the situation
- Ex: you communicated the project deliverables succinctly
- Ex (area of opportunity): your calculations were incorrect
- Stick to the facts, do not insert judgment, and make sure you observed this behavior
Impact: results of the behavior
- Ex: I was impressed with how you showed initiative and drafted something for me to review
- Ex (area of opportunity): When you miss a deadline without updating your stakeholders they begin to lose trust in your ability to execute
- Describing the impact empowers the person to understand their impact
Putting all those pieces together, here are two examples:
- In that meeting you communicated the project deliverables succinctly and thoroughly answered all the questions. I was impressed with how prepared you were for the meeting and the stakeholders feel confident we’ll meet our goals. Great job!
- During our 1:1 the calculations you presented were incorrect. I had to go back and redo the majority of the calculations before talking to the finance team. When I have to redo your work I lose time working on other things and it begins to erode my trust when I delegate you tasks.
When giving feedback it’s always important to prepare! I encourage writing down the feedback you want to give and make sure it follows the model above.
Two questions to ask someone prior to delivering feedback:
- How do you prefer to receive feedback? Some folks want to see something in writing to react to before a verbal delivery. Understanding your team’s feedback style will be impactful for building trust and respecting what they want/need.
- Is now a good time to share some feedback? This gives the person you’re delivering feedback the opportunity to share if they are in a good space to accept feedback. Make it okay for someone to say, no. That is so powerful.
If you’ve asked both those questions and prepared accordingly, please pass go and deliver the feedback.
How People teams can build a feedback culture:
You and your managers can become feedback pros using the framework above but if your culture doesn’t support or encourage giving feedback it might be… a lost cause.
Pro tip: If you want a company culture where people give and receive feedback regularly, engrain that in the values.
BUT Don’t focus on feedback as a value, focus on growth and development.
Cultivating a growth mindset amongst your employees will allow a feedback culture to thrive.
Because employees with a growth mindset believe they can develop through hard work and learning. They value feedback and view it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
CLIFFHANGER… on the next episode of IHIH i’m going to cover how to build a culture of growth and development and the impacts it has on engagement.