One duty of a manager is to create high-performing teams of engaged, happy employees. To do this, great managers use continuous, transparent feedback as a way to drive better performance and also encourage and develop their employees.
When talking about feedback, we tend to focus on how it’s delivered. There’s the good – continuous, constructive, employee-driven – as well as the bad – one-sided, inconsistent, negative. But for managers, one particular component is hard to get right: determining the appropriate level of transparency to share with employees.
Why transparency can be a bad thing
Transparency can actually hurt the feedback process in some instances. Managers should always first ask themselves if sharing information helps individuals do their jobs better? If the answer is no, then the information shouldn’t be shared. Here’s a few examples.
- How employees compare to each other. Comparing employees to each other does little to motivate them. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and pointing them out only serves to increase team competition vs. promote collaboration.
- The performance of a past employee. Similarly, pointing out the strengths of past employees can be demoralizing, while gossiping about their flaws is distracting. Unless there is a strong lesson to be learned with no other way to teach it, past employees should be left in the past.
- Issues in other areas of the organization. Employees always want to hear that they’re doing a good job, but it’s bad for company morale to do so at the expense of others.
When transparency is a good thing
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Well-informed employees use knowledge as motivation to do good work. Here are some areas where managers should absolutely be transparent with employees in giving them feedback.
- How an employee’s performance relates to the company’s goals. Managers have an opportunity to help employees feel more engaged and connected to their organization by helping them understand how their work impacts the broader company goals. Doing so gives employees a more complete sense of purpose in the workplace.
- How an employee’s action affects the team’s performance. Managers can sometimes rely on their team’s high performers to pick up the slack when others are under performing. This can create a negative team dynamic if not addressed. While employees shouldn’t be openly compared to their peers, they should have an understanding of how their performance impacts the rest of the team.
- An employee’s opportunities for advancement. This can be tricky, but managers have a responsibility to do right by their employees. If they don’t see a way for an ambitious employee to grow on their team, they should give them an opportunity to take on a new role, whether inside or outside the company.
In feedback, managers have a powerful tool at their disposal. How successful that feedback is – and the impact it has on employee performance – is largely dependent on its level of transparency. Does your company have any do’s and don’ts for revealing information to employees when giving them performance feedback?