8 tips for giving feedback at your business

If you are the manager of a business, you’re going to be in a position where you have to give feedback to your employees. It’s important that your team members can both take feedback and give feedback. That can help you work together and get work done. But giving feedback can be awkward for you and scary for the employee; feedback can feel threatening as attention is drawn to a weakness. To help your feedback be as effective as possible, here are a few tips.

8 tips for giving feedback at your business.

1. Try to give feedback in person.

It’s probably a good idea for you to give your feedback in person. If you try to give comments over email, the intent and message might not be received the way you meant it. Even feedback given over the phone can become miscommunicated or misunderstood. If you give feedback in-person, you can actually have a conversation. You can read body language and convey the tone you’re going for. Emails can be easily misunderstood or taken the wrong way. In-person feedback can lead to a more productive discussion.

(Now, of course there might be times where in-person feedback isn’t possible – like during a pandemic – so maybe you could consider doing a video call. Technology can be extremely helpful when in-person meetings aren’t possible.)

2. Feedback should be given regularly.

It’s also important to give feedback on a regular basis. If there’s only one chance a year for feedback (like during an annual review) that makes everything more stressful for your employees. And if your teammates only get feedback when they’ve made a mistake, that can make them feel extremely stressed out when you do want to talk to them – even if your comments are positive and not harsh at all. This is why feedback should be a regular thing. That way people get used to receiving feedback and it won’t be quite so traumatizing every time you tell them that you need to talk to them or give them some comments.

3. Have a mix of positive and negative comments.

When you give feedback, try to have a good mix of positive and negative comments. Be sure to share your appreciation as well as giving your suggestions for improvement. That way your employees know that you recognize their hard work. But a Forbes article cautions against using the “feedback sandwich” technique where you cushion the negative within the positive. That can come across as a bit insincere. So, figure out how you can find a healthy balance between the positive, your appreciation of the hard work the employee has been putting in, and your constructive comments.

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4. Be clear.

Your feedback also needs to be clear and detailed. Giving generic, non-specific feedback isn’t exactly helpful – people need direction. It might be helpful to give specific situations and give examples of particular behaviors that you’d like to see change. You need to actually point to specific things and be clear about what you’re really addressing. Try to eliminate confusion or miscommunication.

5. Be conscious of work choice/tone.

When you give your comments or feedback, make sure to pay attention to your tone and your word choice. Rather than being stiff or formal, try to keep it casual and based on observation. Avoid making assumptions about the other person’s motivations or feelings, and don’t make judgements or accusations. Instead, talk about the things you’ve noticed and offer your ideas and thoughts. Be thoughtful about how you give your feedback and how you’re coming across. Tone of voice really does make a difference.

6. Have trust at your business.

It’s also really important to create trust at your business. If your team trusts each other, they know that the feedback they receive is coming from the right place and for their good. If everyone has a sense of trust in you and in your management, they’ll understand that you’re giving this feedback to them in order to help them. (If you’re still feeling awkward giving feedback, you can try to do some role-playing. That way you’re prepared!)

7. Don’t just throw the feedback and take off.

You also need to give space for an actual discussion rather than just catapulting the critiques and running away. Have a real conversation. Show that you’re open to getting feedback, too. Make it clear to your team that you see it as your responsibility to help them succeed. It’s important to have a back-and-forth conversation when you’re giving feedback.

8. Remember your employees are human beings.

A last point to consider is that your employees are human beings. They might have a lot going on and they might be under a lot of stress – especially during times like these when there’s a pandemic happening. So, try to connect with your employees as people before just diving into providing feedback. Show that you care so that the feedback is less threatening. In the long run, that can help your team with problem-solving.

Then you also have to consider whether the feedback is appropriate for the time and circumstances and gauge whether it’s really necessary. It’s kind of a read-the-room thing. If times are tough, try to keep things positive and concentrate on what your employee should keep doing. The question to ask is whether it’s the right time to give that particular piece of feedback.

It’s really important to give feedback in a productive way. There are a few things to remember – try to give feedback in-person (or at least over video call), give feedback regularly, have a blend of positive and critical feedback, and be aware of your tone and attitude. Yes, giving feedback can be uncomfortable, but if you’ve established trust with your team, your employees will know that your intent is to help them succeed.

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