Why feedback from leaders is important – the good and bad alike

Whether the news is good or bad, managers need to open up and give employees feedback.

Good or bad, employee feedback is key.

Good or bad, employee feedback is key.

One of a leader’s most important duties is providing feedback. Leading a team becomes harder if workers can’t get a read on whether their current efforts are appreciated. This can be a tricky area for managers who want to ensure the comments they hand out keep their team members on the path to success. It might be especially troublesome to give bad news. However, it’s critical to become adept at delivering either kind of progress report. 

“Make the time to let professionals know they’re doing well.”

The art of positive feedback
Sometimes, positive recognition gets forgotten. As Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) blogger Sharlyn Lauby recently pointed out, feedback might be one of the areas that gets skipped when managers are busy. However, it’s important to make the time to let professionals know they’re doing well.

For instance, leaders should make sure they’re comparing employees to baselines and not one another. Praising someone for being better than the company’s standards is a good move. Trying to work out whether workers are better than one another is a way to end up in a confusing or contentious situation. Best to dole out positive feedback when someone hits a goal in a particularly impressive way.

Letting opportunities for praise fall by the wayside is a mistake. Lauby warned that when managers let great performances pass unnoticed, workers may become disengaged from their duties. The feeling behind this disconnection is understandable: If great work doesn’t earn praise, it’s easy to assume leaders aren’t paying attention.

Breaking bad news
Negative feedback is hugely important. When someone isn’t meeting standards, it’s time to let the person know and get things on more stable ground. Actually having such a conversation, however, is trying. The Economic Times pointed out that sometimes it helps to let a struggling employee know just how vital such a conversation is. Getting feedback about shortcomings is the first step on the road to improvement, and framing the session that way may improve its tone. Bad news doesn’t have to come with the hint of future problems. It can be presented as part one in a targeted effort to impart new skills.

Though it’s possible to frame negative feedback in a positive light, it should still be handled in private. It’s normal for employees to react emotionally to negative assessments. If there are others around, the situation could deteriorate and generate unpleasant feelings. It’s better to keep such meetings between the manager and the employee.

Becoming an expert
People management is one of the keystones of leadership, and feedback and recognition are some of the most important elements of communication between bosses and their teams. A keen understanding of when to speak with employees, what to say and how to frame the conversation can help managers guide their teams down the right path, both as individuals and as a unit.

Learn more on how you can provide employee development opportunities through e-learning, here.

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