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6 tips for giving feedback that employees will actually listen to

Melissa Allen|

As an HR professional and/or people manager, you’ve probably given feedback to someone interested in advancing their career. Sometimes, offering genuine, well-intentioned feedback is met with hostility, indifference, or defensiveness and you both are left feeling bewildered and stuck.

If you’ve ever been in the above situation, then perhaps your approach to giving genuine, career-building feedback just needs some finessing. Here are some tips for delivering feedback that your report will actually listen to (and act on):

1. Recognize that there are different types of feedback.
There is positive feedback (the fun stuff), negative feedback (not so fun), and corrective feedback – the kind we are focusing on in this article. Corrective feedback is meant to inform the employee about how their actions are affecting others, and offer some ideas on how to course correct to bring about positive change.

2. Remember that it’s a collaborative process.
Provide suggestions for improvement and encourage the employee to do the same. You’ll engage the employee and demonstrate that you are interested in their growth.

3. Corrective feedback must also be formative.
Formative feedback’s ultimate goal is improving the employee’s effectiveness. This is the opposite of summative feedback, which is just a summary of what the employee has “done wrong” and almost always comes across as a judgment or personal attack.

4. Be supportive.
Clearly, you don’t get any glee out of pointing out other people’s areas of improvement and your actions should reflect this:

a) Start and end with what the employee is doing well (Personally, I am a big fan of the beloved “criticism sandwich” – it works!).

b) No blaming. What matters is how the issue can be resolved going forward.

c) Listen to them and don’t interrupt. Sometimes, all they need is a good rant to get the momentary frustration out of their system, and then they’re ready to work with you.

5. Develop an actionable plan.
As mentioned earlier, offer some resolution examples – best those taken from your personal experience or from another successful person in the organization, and work together to come up with a plan.

6. Follow up.
You’ve worked together to develop a plan, now create a timeline of when this plan should be fully executed, and commit to re-grouping to discuss progress and results.

If you find these six tips helpful, check out Inc.com’s 10 Smart Rules for Giving Negative Feedback for some more great advice on how to give feedback that people will listen to.


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