If there's one thing we have come to learn, it's that in business nothing is obvious. What might seem like a clear misjudgement to you may not elicit the same response by your employees. For this reason it is vital that business owners are able to articulate their expectations to their team when delivering feedback, ensuring it is clear and constructive. Here are some helpful steps you can take to ensure your feedback is not only useful, but tactful as well.
Speak up before you reach frustration
We often avoid discussing our concerns until we simply cannot keep quiet any longer, perhaps out of fear of conflict, or even wishful thinking. This not only allows problems to escalate but also leads to a point where you are too frustrated to communicate effectively. If there are concerns, raise them as soon as possible.
It's important that any feedback is linked to specific examples in order for it to be memorable and constructive. It is also important to specify the consequences if problems aren't fixed, so that your employee doesn't over or underestimate the severity of the situation.
Keep it discreet
When it comes to delivering feedback of a critical nature, avoid environments such as team meetings, where an employee may feel embarrassed or singled out. Instead, choose a neutral location where you can both feel comfortable to discuss the matter.
Be tactful, but don't sugarcoat it
Striking a balance between kindness and directness can be tricky, but it is paramount if you want your words to be taken seriously and acted upon. Ensure your tone is kind, but your words direct. That way, rather than coming across as giving mere suggestions, your employees will understand what you expect without feeling demeaned or attacked. Show concern, but do so without using anger.
Encourage a partnership
While an owner has the final say within a business, it is important to acknowledge the input of your employee when developing a strategy for improving a negative situation. Rather than simply demanding things be changed, work together to figure out how best to do this.
Make it a constant activity
Feedback should not be treated as a special event, instead it should form part of the basic running of your business. Rather than waiting for performance reviews, give your staff an ongoing understanding of how their actions impact their surroundings.
Keep it balanced
It's also essential to remember the importance of positive feedback. Just like negative behaviours, our employees may not be aware of how well they are actually doing. By pointing out their specific accomplishments, you will not only boost office morale, you will also reinforce the positive behaviours you are trying to encourage.
Put it in context
Critical feedback can be disheartening to an employee, particularly if it's unexpected. They can quickly find themselves second-guessing their abilities and seeing problems where there may not be any. It is important to provide context when delivering critical feedback by highlighting things that you are happy with, or explaining that while there may be some needed changes, their overall performance is good.
Finally, ensure your feedback is based on action rather than blame. Focusing on what can be done to rectify a situation, or offering suggestions on how to further improve upon the positives, can give the employee something to work towards rather than simply highlighting the current situation.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.