HR professionals understand that employees require feedback. Yes, feedback is important, but doing it wrong can be worse than not doing it at all.
Here are 10 things you should never do when you need to tell an employee how he or she is doing:
No matter what you are actually saying when you are screaming, all your employee hears is that you are angry. Whatever you scream is categorised in an employee’s brain as irrational. Avoid this at all cost.
2. Give feedback in anger
Your employee really screwed up at the client meeting. Maybe there were typos on the PowerPoint presentation. Maybe she didn’t know the answers to the client’s questions — and she should have. Maybe she was late and frazzled looking.
All of these things should be addressed, but don’t do it when you are furious. Yes, timely feedback is a great idea. Go take a walk around the block, take a breath, and then give feedback.
3. Give negative feedback in public
Your job is not to humiliate your employees. Sure, a quick correction is fine. But, if you need to tell an employee something major, do it in private. Letting the employee’s peers — or worse, direct reports — hear you criticise him, makes it all the more painful. Your goal in giving negative feedback is to make things better, not worse.
4. Give only negative feedback
If you evaluate your employees only when they have done something wrong, they will assume you do not approve of any of their work. It is absolutely critical to give positive feedback when an employee as earned it.
Sometimes a manager is caught off guard when an employee gives her two-weeks notice — the manager had no idea she was thinking of leaving. The manager is even more shocked when the employee admits she started looking for a new job because she figured she was not capable in her current position. That is the kind of thinking you create when you don’t say “good job!” or “I love how you handled that bizarre client request.”
Although negative feedback should almost always be done in private, sometimes positive feedback needs to be done in public. A private, “good job!” is great, but offering praise in front of peers can have an even more profound effect. Now, do be careful that you are not singing the praises of just one employee — unless the rest of your staff is truly incompetent. When someone does a good job, say so, in front of anyone who happens to be around.
6. Save up a whole bunch of complaints.
Many managers do not like giving negative feedback, so they put it off until the situation has gotten so bad that a crisis is created. The offending employee is called in, and 14 different things she did wrong are dumped in her lap, some of which happened six months ago! Has this happened to you? It feels terrible.
Small things are suddenly magnified a thousand times, and the employee is completely demoralised. Worse, in most cases it does not even accomplish anything, because it is difficult to fix things that happened a long time ago.
7. Give only formal performance reviews
Some managers not only save up every negative thing, they save every positive thing, as well, presenting them all at once during an annual performance review. Think about how bad it is — your employees don’t know what you do and don’t like until 365 days have passed. How is that helping your business? Speak up regularly!
8. Bring up irrelevant information
Employment lawyers make a living off this. When you are addressing an employment issue, focus on the employment issue, and nothing else.
“Steve, you’ve missed two deadlines this week. What can I do to help you meet those deadlines?” That’s great. “Steve, since you had your surgery, you’ve missed two deadlines. Did you forget how to do your job when you were out?” That’s an FMLA lawsuit waiting to happen.
Of course, that one statement is not enough to win a lawsuit, but it is enough to make Steve start thinking that you are upset about his time off. A couple of statements like that can start your company down a road you don’t want to be on. Keep to the facts.
9. Give comprehensive negative feedback without documentation.
“Hey, there was a typo on that report” is not a big deal. It can be fixed, and life can go on.
“Your work needs to be typo free. I get that mistakes happen, but this is an ongoing problem with your work. You need to proofread every document before it goes out.” This kind of thing needs to be documented, and if the problem continues, the employee need to be put on a Performance Improvement Plan, and ultimately terminated if the behaviour doesn’t change.
Many managers don’t document anything, so if they have addressed an issue 10 times, they get confused when HR says, “You want to fire someone because he made a typo?” Documenting things can make the process of termination run smoothly.
10. Forget to say how you would like things to change
“Jane, don’t do that.” Umm, okay. If the “that” is picking her nose during meetings, it is pretty obvious that what you want is for her to not pick her nose. But if the “that” is something more vague, just what is Jane supposed to do? You need to tell her.
“Jane, don’t do that. Instead, do this.” Now Jane knows what she needs to do to succeed in her job. Otherwise, she is just going to have to guess until she gets it right.
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