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Memo to Managers
Many supervisors feel uncomfortable giving their employees feedback. Many even avoid giving feedback altogether because they fear a negative reaction or are nervous about saying or doing something that could be seen by an employee as harassment or discrimination. Some just don’t like being critical of others.
But giving frequent, accurate employee feedback—both positive and negative—is one of the best ways to create an engaged and motivated workforce, and is critical for the success of our organization. Here are five tips on giving feedback —while staying within the bounds of ethics and compliance best practices—for high-impact results.
1) Set the Right Foundation
Early on, communicate your performance expectations for each of your employees. Define the goals you want to achieve and set clear targets for each employee. Explain that you’ll check in periodically on progress towards those goals. Setting the stage for honest and frequent feedback early on will make it easier and more natural to communicate constructive feedback when it’s needed.
2) Highlight Employee Achievements
Employees are more motivated when their contributions are recognized. Hearing positive feedback, especially when it is timely and specific, helps employees maintain their confidence. Reinforcing and recognizing positive behaviors also helps set a strong, supportive tone for the team.
3) Promptly Communicate Concerns
Feedback needs to happen in real time. Without feedback, employees will naturally believe that their performance is acceptable. So, the longer you wait, the longer the problem will persist. Delaying constructive criticism also can negatively impact your team culture if other employees feel that nothing is being done about an issue that affects everyone. Giving prompt feedback sends a message that you care about your team’s success, and that you actively support improvement and growth
4) Motivate Change
When preparing to give feedback, especially if it includes criticism, consider these principles for the best outcome:
- It sounds silly, but think of yourself as a superhero—today, you are going to help your employee save his or her job. If you view providing criticism as a good thing, your tone, word choice, and demeanor all will change, and the employee will be more likely to respond positively. If you start off feeling uncomfortable and defensive, however, your employee will pick up on it and the conversation will be more negative or even confrontational.
- Be specific, both about how the employee is falling short of expectations and—most importantly—what the employee needs to do in order to succeed. Without a specific “target” to aim for, it will be difficult for the employee make the changes you need. Agree on a timeframe for improvement.
- Determine whether the employee will need support such as training, how-to guides, mentoring, etc.—and then provide it.
- Let the employee respond to the feedback. She may feel caught off-guard in the moment, so allow some time for processing and response if necessary.
5) Document the Conversation
Once you’ve provided feedback, make a record of the conversation using specific, factual descriptions. A good tool can be an email to the employee recapping your conversation. Document:
- How the employee is falling short of, meeting, or exceeding expectations. Be specific.
- Your expectations for performance going forward.
- Employee’s responses and agreement to make any required changes.
- Specific details of what the employee needs to do differently, and the agreed timeline for success (action plan).
Employee feedback doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable or defensive process. It is a valuable tool for growth and should be done frequently. Use these tips to provide feedback that motivates change and helps build empowered, resilient, and skilled teams.
Questions of the Month
Q: I’m not pleased with my employee’s performance. However, Joe doesn’t take criticism well, so I rated him as satisfactory in his first year performance review and did not address my concerns with him. This week, Joe’s team member complained that Joe has been late to the office, did not complete his assignments on time, and forced other employees to do extra work to cover for him. What should I do?
A. Failing to give accurate performance feedback was a big mistake. While your concern about how your employee might take the criticism is understandable, you have equipped him with an official document saying that his performance is satisfactory. If he is fired now, there’s a good chance he would sue your organization for discriminating against him. If you try to say that the real reason is not
discriminatory but performance, he will be able to point to your review as evidence that his performance was just fine—which will support his claim that you are discriminating against him. Work with HR to find a way to raise the employee’s performance and, if you cannot, to document—accurately—his poor performance from here onward.
Q: I have an employee who is falling short of performance metrics that apply to her role. I have advised her that she needs to put in more time to hit her goals and that the time she has sporadically been taking off from work is getting in the way of success. She says that she has some kind of disease that causes her to shake and she has been getting treatment for it. Performance reviews are coming up. Can I address her inadequate performance?
A. Reach out to HR right away. It could be that the disease your employee mentioned might qualify her for a reasonable accommodation, and she might be entitled to take time off for treatment. If so, giving her a negative performance review might be viewed as discriminating against her for taking leave to which she is entitled and/or based on her disability. This is complex—leave it to your HR and Legal teams to determine the appropriate course of action.
Developing a successful and up-to-date code is one of the most cost effective ways of communicating about your ethics and compliance standards and expectations. And, not only is the code itself a valuable communications tool, but—if done right—the process of updating and drafting a new code also has important benefits.
Using Compliance Communicator
Equipping managers with the skills they need to navigate the E&C challenges they face is critical. Use the content in Compliance Communicator to help keep compliance top of mind with your managers and strengthen your organizational culture. NAVEX Global grants you permission to publish any or all of the content to best suit your needs.
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