Performance feedback is the on-going process between employee and manager where information is exchanged concerning the performance expected and the performance exhibited. Constructive feedback can praise good performance or correct poor performance and should always be tied to the performance standards.
Characteristics of constructive feedback
Constructive feedback is:
- Specific rather than general. To be told that one is “dominating” will not be as useful as being told that, “In the meeting that just took place,
- you switched topics without asking if there were additional comments,
- you cut people off mid-sentence, and
- you interrupted others.”
- Focused on behavior rather than on the person. It is important that we refer to what a person does. Thus we might describe a person as having “talked more than anyone else in this meeting” rather than saying the person is “a loudmouth.” The former allows for the possibility of change; the latter implies a fixed personality trait.
- Given in order to help, not hurt. Too often people give feedback to make themselves feel better.
- Directed toward behavior which the receiver can do something about. It is pointless and frustrating to be reminded of a trait over which one has no control.
- Well-timed. Feedback is most useful at the earliest opportunity after the behavior you want to address has been demonstrated (depending on the person’s readiness to hear it, privacy, time available for discussion, etc). Feedback presented at an inappropriate time may do more harm than good.
- Limited to the amount of information the receiver can use rather than the amount you would like to give. To overload a person reduces the possibility that the feedback will be used. Additionally, if you give more information than can be used you are likely satisfying some individual need rather than attempting to help the other person.
- Checked for clarity. Ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback received to verify that it corresponds to what you had in mind. No matter what the intent, feedback is often perceived as threatening thus subject to considerable distortion or misinterpretation.
- Followed up on at a later date. Be aware of the effects of your feedback.
Giving negative feedback: correcting poor performance
- Note poor performance immediately upon observing it.
- Specify what does not meet expectations.
- Refer to performance standards.
- Note the effect of observed performance on work group/organization.
- Model or restate appropriate performance.
- Describe negative consequences.
- Obtain agreement on the problem.
- Mutually seek solutions.
- Agree on action plan.
- Encourage improvement.
- Set date for check (if appropriate).
- Don’t belabor a point.
- Move forward after the discussion.
- Avoid giving correction in public.
Giving positive feedback: praising good performance
- Praise immediately on observing good performance.
- Be specific about what was good about performance; refer to performance standards.
- Note how meeting (or exceeding) standards helps work group/organization meet strategic objectives.
- Encourage maintaining this level of performance.