Mistakes to avoid while giving feedback

By on July 23, 2016

Feedback from customers has always been a key ingredient for success of businesses. While the technological advances are rapidly changing the business landscapes, they are also nowadays forcing leadership & management to think about how feedback to employees can help them become better.

With real-time feedback becoming more mainstream we share a few learnings about how to make your feedback more fruitful for your team members.

We list down a few very common mistakes that should be avoided while giving feedback:

Delayed feedback

In an era, where companies need to constantly strive to improve their performance, annual performance reviews are simply insufficient. Delayed feedback will cause the organisation to work inefficiently over prolonged period of time and thus cause a loss in productivity.
Feedback needs to be given at frequent intervals or even in real time. Companies are rapidly adopting 360° feedback, where it is given on a continuous basis. It could be either weekly, monthly or quarterly and in some case even on completion of essential tasks or projects.

Key Takeaway

Praise for the extraordinary effort that was taken 6 months back ends up disastrously less encouraging today. Similarly, coaching that was needed last year has already done the damage.

Making it personal

Would you like a feedback where you are constantly being told to dress properly despite adhering to the formal dress code? The only reason being your manager doesn’t ‘like’ certain colours?

Of course you wouldn’t! This is a personal opinion of the manager that doesn’t have any bearing on your performance.

Similarly, if a manager doesn’t like your style of working as it differs from his own, he can’t hold it up against you. As long as you are adhering to company norms, you are free to perform in any manner that suits you best.

When you give feedback that is personal, you attract a negative vibe from your employees. Your feedback should be about their achievements or shortcomings professionally. It should be a way to show them areas where they can perform better by utilising their strengths and overcoming all weaknesses.

Key Takeaway

Before actually passing on the feedback, positive or negative, think to yourself whether the feedback is based on your personal preferences or commonly accepted values at your workplace.

Psychological Biases

Over a period of time, managers tend to form an opinion about how their team members perform at work. It should be noted that everyone doesn’t always perform in the same manner as before. Some develop their skills and improve dramatically while some of the good ones slowly disintegrate into below average performers.

Feedback should be given after careful consideration of all important factors and statistics. Only objective feedback can help develop the employees. Subjective feedback will create a rift between you and your team.
As a manager, you should give feedback that is free of all psychological biases else it will be entirely ineffective and lead to poor decision making.

Key Takeaway

Making the feedback more continuous & keeping a handy log ends up helping you judge people more objectively. Reason being, the feedback is gathered over a period of time & thus compensates for any situational biases that may have risen if everything was done at once.

Only positive or negative feedback

Never give feedback that falls on extreme ends of the scale. Feedback that is entirely positive or entirely negative will not show the complete picture to the employee.

When you give just positive feedback and focus only on the achievements, you tend to leave out important areas where they may have not met with their objectives. The employees feel they have been performing well and continue to work in the same manner. This way productivity is sure to decrease gradually.

The Ultimate Guide to giving feedback

In case of a complete negative feedback, employees may become demotivated. They might feel their achievements have been ignored and complete focus has been on their failures. Such a feedback will further create problems such as they moving on to better opportunities where their efforts are also recognised.

Key Takeaway

Only positive or negative feedback reflects more on the manager’s state of thinking. Because each one of us has some commendable skills as well as some key areas where we can improve. Not thinking about one or the other leaves the feedback incomplete.

Offering one sided solutions with negative feedback

When an employee is given a negative feedback, some managers tend to think such employee may not be capable of coming up with a solution to overcome his problems. Such managers  take it upon themselves to create a series of measures to develop the employee.

Employees get the impression that solutions, however useful, are being dictated to them. On the contrary, they should be given a chance to come up with measures they think will be helpful in improving their performance.
When you allow your employees to contribute in these processes, they feel empowered and take initiative to develop their performance.

Key Takeaway

True leaders are great listeners. Including your co-workers in their own personal growth is a sign that you truly care about their growth as much as they themselves do.

Vague or non-actionable feedback

Always give specific and to-the-point feedback. When you say such things as “You did really well on the ABC project and keep up the good work”, it is very vague.

This is not sufficient for the receiver to understand exactly what is being appreciated and what was the result of his performance.

A more precise way of giving feedback would be:

  • Due to your focus on social media promotion initiatives on Twitter, our followers have grown from 200 to 1000 for Q1 FY 2016-2017
  • Based on this you can come up with a target for the next quarter

Key Takeaway

Don’t ever give feedback just for the sake of it. Make it meaningful & actionable at the same time.

One feedback for the entire team

One size fits all philosophy definitely doesn’t apply while giving feedback to the team. Every member has different goals defined  that are aligned to the team goals. As per their capabilities, each one performs differently with the end purpose being completion of team objective.  
Out of 10 members, if 9 achieve their goals but 1 does not, then the team goals will not have been achieved. In such a case, it is not right to give a poor collective feedback to the entire team. The efforts of 9 performers should be taken into consideration in their feedback while the 10th one should get to know what he has missed out on.

Key Takeaway

Positive or negative, any feedback is truly actionable only if directed at one individual at a time. If not, it simply becomes no one’s feedback.

Can you think of any other mistakes that can be avoided while giving feedback? Let us know in the comments.

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