“You did a great job.”
While this bit of employee feedback seems as though it would be helpful – it’s not. Feedback can be a slippery slope. Many things influence how feedback is interpreted by an employee. Determining the best way to help employees improve but also keep morale high is a challenge for managers.
Here are three factors that have a big impact on how feedback should be delivered. (You can get more tips for delivering employee feedback here.) In a follow up post, we’ll share examples of feedback that should be avoided, as well as specific ones that should be emulated.
Length of tenure
How long employees have worked for a company can influence their reaction to feedback. In the case of peer-to-peer feedback, seniority should be acknowledged and taken into consideration when providing constructive criticism. On the other side of the coin, newer managers may lack an understanding of their team’s company history, so it’s important to connect with HR or other longtime managers first so you know which topics to approach with caution.
People can be introverts or extroverts, loud or quiet, proactive or reactive, emotional or stoic. Feedback is most successful when it’s delivered in a way that is amenable to a person’s preferences, not those of the manager. Well-intentioned feedback can go horribly wrong when delivered in a way that could be deemed aggressive or negative.
An employee’s recent performance – good or bad – can cloud the judgment of a manager, but it has a bigger effect on employees themselves. High performers who have had a string of bad luck may need more encouragement, as they might have a higher level of sensitivity around receiving feedback. Uncharacteristic performance can also provide subtle clues – a high performer who stops taking initiative could be bored or looking for a new job, or a low performer who is exceeding goals could be responding well to a new team member or project.