Employee Feedback - Building a Positive Workplace CultureBy: Jennifer McCoy
Did you know?
Could employee feedback improve this situation? What is Two-Way feedback all about anyway? Could constructive feedback really help to improve working relationships and productivity? This article draws on some of the research that highlights what's really happening in our workplaces, offers some strategies that have worked for other businesses and leaves you to draw you own conclusions. Two-Way Feedback just might be worth trying.
What is two-way feedback?
Giving feedback simply means telling people how they're going at work. Two-Way feedback means also taking feedback - being prepared to listen to what others tell you, without being defensive if it's not good news; listening for ways to improve your own performance and/or the business.
Many people equate feedback with delivering bad news, criticism of poor performance. But feedback also can, and should be, good news.
Feedback - the good news
Positive feedback, when you tell people they've done well, should be easy, e.g.:
This is the kind of feedback that everyone likes; the kind that motivates people to perform well consistently. The reality seems to be that it isn't often done.
Did you know?
Feedback - the bad news
Of course we also have to deliver the 'bad news' but when we have to give this kind of feedback we often end up criticizing and distressing the person or people concerned, however well-intentioned we are. Why does it happen?
A common reason is that we put up with things for too long because we don't know what to say or how to say it.
And we remember what happened last time when the recipient of our 'bad news' either cried, sulked, got defensive or started avoiding you. All of which caused us enormous stress.
When we realize the job can no longer be put off, we're so stressed that we react defensively, unnecessarily aggressive and hurtful. A recipe for staff discord and non-productive business.
Building a feedback culture
Building a workplace culture, where everyone is comfortable about receiving feedback about their performance, significantly reduces stress levels in manager-staff relationships.
Start thinking and acting like a leader
Giving, and taking, feedback starts at the top, with the business owner, the manager, even with the team leader. Step back from the immediate action and look at the bigger picture, at the business from a leader's perspective.
What do leaders do? They do things that inspire people to follow them, to help them build the business. Your business needs staff or it can't operate, or grow, so if you want to lead your staff you need to know exactly:
These are the big questions, often ones we don't really think about. Give yourself some time and space to stop and reflect on these questions.
Once clear about these questions you could follow steps other business leaders have taken:
Understand staff needs
If you are committed to giving feedback then it's worth understanding what staff want these days. One major research project, across workplaces, selected those that were 'simply the best' and found that staff all agreed they want these five essentials, topping a list of fifteen 'wants':
If you've got Generation Y staff members it's worth noting that, according to researcher Peter Sheahan, this group wants feedback on the spot - not at far-off performance reviews; their rewards fast and personalized and public recognition for their efforts. GenY are "creative, resourceful and entertaining" he says; they like to work in teams, to develop and take on new challenges. A valuable resource - if they get feedback.
Deliver bad news as constructive feedback
If we don't tell people where they are going wrong they won't know where they stand, someone who 'gets away with it' will be resented; in either case your business suffers.
However, we need to avoid criticism of the person and focus instead on constructive feedback on their actions.
Criticism is personal when we say: "You're always late! Can't you get out of bed in the morning? If it happens once more......"
If you stick to the facts, tell the person how their behavior affects others and invite their input to solving the problem, you've got a far better basis for cooperation, e.g.: "I've noticed last week you were late four mornings. When that happens I have to help the other staff do your job and I feel I'm being used. What do you think we can do about it?"
Yes, there may come the time when reasonable negotiation no longer works; but at least start with a positive attitude.
With a feedback culture established, you will need to accept feedback too. Remember though, others may not have learned how to give that feedback constructively. So, take a deep breath, swallow your pride as well as any instinct to react defensively. These guidelines may be useful.
From a staff perspective
If your workplace has reached this level of cooperation you're in an excellent situation. However, great subtlety is required if the workplace culture discourages your feedback; if your boss is defensive and takes feedback personally, or worse, quietly awaits a moment for retribution. These guidelines may be useful.
As a last thought, have you ever thought of thanking your boss for a job well done?
© copyright 2006 Jennifer McCoy. All rights reserved.
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.
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