In nature, equilibrium is often maintained through feedback loops. This is where a system’s output continually reverberates back to the system to either amplify it (positive feedback) or inhibit it (negative feedback).
These loops also exist in the workplace, especially when it comes to employee feedback. The quality of input you receive from your employees is usually based on the quality of the output they receive from you. In other words, if you want open feedback from employees, you first need to be open with them.
If you’re getting negative (or no) feedback from your employees, it’s time for some introspection. Here are a few tips to help you get your equilibrium back.
Ask for feedback in the right way at the right time
Kim Scott, co-founder of Radical Candor, knows something about give-and-take in management. She has coached the CEO’s of Dropbox, Qualtrics, and Twitter, to name just a few.
“Don’t dish it out before you prove you can take it,” she says. “Start by asking your direct reports for feedback about you, not the other way around.” In other words, good employee feedback starts with good listening. “If you walk into a meeting with a list of praise and criticism for somebody, you won’t be in listening mode,” she says. Here are tips for making that part easier:
Come up with a go-to question. Think about the question that you will use to ask somebody for feedback. It can be sweeping: “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?” Or be more specific: “What could I have done better in that meeting? I’m worried I seemed a bit defensive.”
Embrace the discomfort. The last thing most employees want to do is to give feedback to their boss. Your job is to make it more uncomfortable for them to say nothing than for them to say something. Try just asking your question, shutting your mouth, and then counting to six in your head. Not many people can endure silence for that long; if you commit to it, you’ll get the chance to hear from your employee.
Listen with the intent to understand. It’s vital not to get defensive. Rather than react to the feedback, check your level of understanding by asking, “Just to make sure I understand right, what I hear you saying is […].”
Reward the candor. When somebody gives candid feedback to their boss, they take a risk. It’s your job to make sure there is a payoff. If you agree with the feedback, fix the problem and report back once you’ve done so. If you disagree with the feedback, find that five percent of what was said you do agree with.
After you get employee feedback, tell them that you’ll think more about what they said and get back to them. Explain that you really appreciate their point of view.
Give feedback in the right way at the right time
Russ Laraway, vice president of People Operations at Qualtrics, has had a 25-year career in operational management. He says that once you’ve shown you can take feedback from your employees, you’re ready to give it out. “The best type of feedback is offered in impromptu two-minute conversations in between meetings,” he says. “Don’t save it up for a 1:1 and certainly not for a performance review.”
Most people are more afraid of giving feedback than asking for it, Laraway says. Here are his tips to make giving employee feedback easier:
Offer more praise than criticism. You’ll all be happier — and more productive — if you offer more praise than criticism. But only do it if you really mean it. The purpose of praise is to help people know what to do more of. It’s not to baby their egos.
Be humble. Remember, you may be wrong in your assessment of whatever you’re praising or criticizing. And that’s okay. Omniscience is not a job requirement. When you offer feedback, welcome the other person’s perspective.
Be helpful. You’re trying to help people improve and grow. You’re not trying to bust their chops with criticism or patronize with praise. Offer feedback in this spirit.
Give it immediately. The sooner you tell someone something is wrong, the faster they can fix it — or fix your misunderstanding. The sooner you tell somebody something is great, the sooner they can do more of it.
Give it in person. Feedback gets measured at the other person’s ear, not your mouth. The only way to know what’s going on is to watch for their reaction because most of communication is non-verbal.
Praise in public, criticize in private. When you praise in public, your words carry more weight. Doing so teaches not just one person — it instructs everyone what to do more of. When you criticize in private, you reduce the odds of a negative reaction.
It’s not about personality. Give feedback on things that the person can change or do more of, not on fundamental personality attributes which are difficult to change. Remember that the purpose of praise is to show people what to do more of, and the purpose of criticism is to show people what to do better.
Getting feedback from your employees is a matter of give-and-take. The more impromptu feedback you and your team receive, the more success you will have and the better your relationships at work will be. On the other hand, there’s nothing more arresting to getting candid feedback from employees than a failure of feedback from management.
With the right recruiting strategy, you’ll get great feedback from great employees
You can give and take employee feedback better when you have good managers and employees to work with, which all comes down to your recruiting efforts. That’s where Monster Hiring Solutions can help. Sign up today and you’ll receive expert recruiting tips from sources you can trust as well as up-to-date analysis of current hiring trends.