How to give tough feedback to employees

Written by Hospice Keys

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Managers often avoid “uncomfortable” feedback discussions

Managers often shy away from providing tough feedback to their employees. Or, if they do sit down for these difficult discussions with their employees, the discussions dissolve into arguments and finger pointing – by the manager, the employee, or both.

The key is providing effective feedback

But avoiding providing feedback to the employee is not the solution. Typically, when a manager observes an undesirable behavior, this behavior only escalates and the situation worsens – often to the point that the relationship cannot be salvaged. Rather than trying to ignore undesirable behavior, the key is providing effective feedback., 

Why is effective feedback important?

Effective feedback can be the difference between sparking growth and development in an employee, resulting in an employee who contributes positively to the team versus and employee who feels diminished and reduces their contribution to the organization.

What are key aspects of effective feedback and how can you maximize likelihood of employee success?

Effective feedback will encourage the employee to self reflect and lead to growth and development, rather than encouraging denial and self-preservation. 

Provide constructive criticism, that helps the employee understand where they need to improve and why the improvement is important. Identify the problem and a plan to help the employee improve. The employee can be invited to help find solutions, so that they are a partner in the solution. 

Once you deliver feedback, be sure to follow up. It’s not sufficient to simply tell the employee what they need to improve upon. You need to give them a plan to follow, targets and goals to achieve, and then check in to help them stay on track. Offering ongoing feedback is helpful – with more feedback and check-ins earlier on in the process. 

It is important that a manager is honest with employees. If an employee is underperforming, a manager has a responsibility to let the employee know and to give them a framework and tools to improve their performance.

Read more about providing effective feedback

Some additional resources:

How to Give Tough Feedback That Helps People Grow, Harvard Business Review, August 2015

How to Give Negative Feedback to Employees, Lian Parsons, June 2022

7 Successful Tips To Help Leaders Give Negative Feedback Effectively, Forbes, February 2020

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