Giving feedback is one of the most important skills to master in the workplace. Think about it for a second. As I wrote in an earlier post, more than 85% of employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their supervisors. If that’s true, then how employees are treated, or perceive themselves to be treated, by a supervisor is central to the success of any operation.
High turnover—any turnover for that matter—costs money. It disrupts the flow of work and can have a negative impact on the environment in the workplace. Too much turnover and the organization will start getting a reputation in the community and have difficulty attracting top talent.
Are you aware of how you give feedback? Do you let your mood get in the way of delivering the message? Are you thinking about other things that need to get done so you rush through feedback without giving it much thought? Do you have any idea how the person on the receiving end is taking it?
I know people whose favorite feedback tool is to yell and scream. I once asked a supervisor how he felt after doing so. He said, “I feel much better.” Then I asked, “What about the people you screamed at? How do they feel?” He sat with a quizzical look on his face. It never occurred to him that yelling was a negative thing. It never occurred to him that his team might have a problem with it.
It never occurred to him that his screaming might be the reason people leave his company.
Let’s look at it from a different perspective. If you’re a supervisor and you’re told that your salary would be reduced in proportion to the amount of money spent hiring and training new people in your division to replace the ones who left because of you, would you pay greater attention to the way you talk to others, especially when you give feedback?
That scenario is not so farfetched—you’ll have fewer resources at your disposal if your company or organization has to keep hiring and training new people.
Part of the difficulty is that supervisors frequently have no idea that they’re doing anything wrong. They have stress of their own. They have things to do and may think that taking time to give appropriate feedback is a luxury time won’t permit. They may have grown up in a work environment that valued screaming—or creating a culture of fear—as a way to motivate employees.
When in doubt, you can fall back on fundamental ancient wisdom when delivering feedback: Everyone wants to be treated with respect.
Here are 4 tools for providing respectful feedback:
1. Don’t be stingy with your praise. Give compliments when it’s appropriate. In organizations that have no money for raises, bonuses, or awards, praise may be the most valuable currency for employees.
2. Whether what you’re talking about with the employee is positive or negative, be specific in your comments so the employee understands exactly what should be repeated and what to correct.
3. If the feedback is negative, remember to keep it based on the problem at hand. Don’t make it personal.
4. Listen actively to the responses or questions of the person to whom the feedback is being given. If you dismiss those comments as unimportant or inconsequential, fundamental respect is already missing from the equation. People need to feel heard, and they also need to be sure they fully understand what you’re saying.
Feedback delivered well can be a powerful resource in the supervisor’s toolkit. Likewise, feedback that feels like attacking or belittling can easily feed the engine of discontent.