Giving employee feedback when there's a concern

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Employee feedback is an essential tool for effective management. It helps employees understand what is expected of them, identifies areas of improvement, and recognizes their achievements. 

Sometimes employers miss the opportunity to provide constructive criticism because they want to avoid confrontation. We’re here to guide you through the steps to becoming a leader who is a coach: providing feedback and helping employees do a great job.

There are many reasons why employers and managers are reluctant to raise performance issues with an employee:

  • Fear the employee will quit.
  • Frustration that a trained employee is still making mistakes.
  • Belief it’s just a one-off and won’t happen again.
  • Feeling they’re too angry to deal with the situation right at that moment.

While these are all valid, and often well-founded, ignoring a performance issue can impact productivity and morale.  

Performance issues can arise for a variety reasons, including poor communication, lack of clarity about expectations, inadequate training or even simply a lack of motivation on the employee’s behalf. You will need to determine whether the issue is person-based or process-based.

Person-based: the employee is willfully or deliberately not doing their job, not meeting standards, etc.

Process-based: the employee is prevented from doing their job correctly by lack of training, faulty equipment, etc. 

Correcting performance issues can save you money. It generally costs a business more time and money to terminate an employee and hire and train a replacement than it does to correct the employee’s behaviour.

It's also important to address these issues promptly and constructively. 

Here’s how: 

  1. Schedule a meeting with the employee: Before giving feedback, set up a meeting with the employee to discuss the issue. This gives the employee a chance to prepare and helps ensure that the meeting is productive.
  2. Be specific: When giving feedback, be specific about the issue(s) and provide examples. Avoid making any generalizations or assumptions, as this can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
  3. Be objective: Focus on the facts and avoid using emotional language. Stick to the behaviour you observed and the impact it had on the team or organization.
  4. Listen actively: Allow the employee to share their perspective and respond to them with empathy. This helps build trust and shows that you value their input.
  5. Create an action plan: Together with the employee, develop a written plan to address the performance issue(s). Set clear goals, provide support, and establish a timeline for improvement.
    Part of this action plan can include the following steps: 
    • Clearly state what you want the employee to do (or stop doing) to improve their behaviour, and when you want it to start.
    • Ask the employee for compliance. Many people miss this step, but it is important to the overall success of the feedback.
    • Wait for the employee to answer. If they have any questions or objections, this is their time to raise them. Listen carefully; a good leader will learn from their employee.
  6. Thank your employee: Make sure your employee knows you appreciate the work they do, and the fact they had this conversation with you.

Feedback should be given not only when there is a performance issue, but also when an employee is doing well, and you want to acknowledge their efforts. Not sure how to praise an employee who is doing well? Read our article How to acknowledge good performers