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Feedback – Not just Negative!

150 150 Matthew Doig


“I think I’m going OK but I’m not really sure.” This is a statement which should fill any proactive Manager with dread. To have an effective and connected workforce requires staff who not only have a clear vision of what they should be trying to achieve but also how well they are making this journey. Good feedback given regularly gives people the connection they need with their jobs and the confidence that they can adapt and adjust to new requirements and situations as conditions change.

Many people have experiences of workplaces where the only time they received any feedback at all was when they had done something wrong. During my earliest encounters with Public Service Management in the dim dark 80’s I was told that “if I don’t hear anything then everything is OK!” Not surprisingly, this mentality has led to many people associating feedback as something which we do when we need to pull someone into line, or as an old Manager of mine use to gleefully say “kick ass.”

The fact is that Feedback is something we give to people no matter whether they are doing a good job or a bad one. It is critical for staff to know how they are doing and professionally delivered feedback gives them something they can work with and build upon. At a very fundamental level, the success of a manager will depend on the staff they have working with them and these staff will only develop and contribute appropriately if they have Managers who do the following:

  • Give feedback frequently – don’t save it up. If there is a need to tell someone something, then do it and let people know that this is what they should expect in the workplace. It is tempting to delay a difficult situation, but this usually just makes things worse. Good Managers nip things in the bud with prompt feedback.
  • Provide praise for good work – not every workplace can give out bonuses or movie tickets, but studies have shown that people get as much of a buzz from being told they have done a good job and having this news shared with other staff.
  • Be hard on problems not people. Many Managers make the mistake of viewing performance problems as a chance to personally criticise someone. This runs the risk of them taking things personally and pushing back against any advice that is being given.

In my next article I will look at how we can conduct a feedback session in a way which focuses on developing the person, while also building their confidence and capabilities.