The 7 steps of giving feedback
Giving negative feedback to an employee is one of the more difficult aspects of people-management. Depending on the situation, emotions can rise if the employee does not receive the negative feedback well or feels it is undeserved. Although not all feedback is negative, positive remarks are often far easier to both give and receive. Here are the 7 steps to giving negative feedback.
Step 1: Ask if it is OK to share feedback
Whenever possible, ask if your employee is happy to receive feedback. In situations such as a performance review, this will not be a possibility but speaking to an employee who is receptive to feedback is beneficial for both parties.
Try asking “I’d like to talk about your presentation; do you have five minutes now or later today?” It is always best to provide feedback as quickly as possible so it becomes a natural exchange but it is important to ask when you can.
Step 2: Ensure the feedback is factual and relevant
Be sure that, whatever it is that you are offering as feedback, it is truly relevant in the specific context. A simple way to mentally check if your comment is truly relevant is to consider the consequences; ask yourself: “Does this action, choice or behavior that I am going to comment about, impact our business?” If you are not able to pinpoint clear consequences, it might simply be a judgment and not feedback material. (e.g. “I don’t like the way you dress” or “I like your accent”).
Step 3: Enquire about the other person’s awareness
More often than not, people are aware of when they have done well and when they are lacking somewhere but sometimes they truly aren’t. This is the moment to be humble and ask whether the employee is aware of, or has noticed what you are talking about. This step requires an open mind and the ability to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Whether, in your own mind, the observed fact gives you a positive or a negative impression, this is the time to let go of your own interpretation and learn. So, just ask.
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Step 4: Actively listen to the receiver
Listening is a rare and valuable skill and a very difficult one to master. We often think that we are listening, when instead we are already planning what to say next. When it comes to feedback, it helps to use the techniques of Active Listening, like:
• Rephrasing or rearticulating
• Checking understanding
• Asking open-ended questions
Step 5: Share the feedback
At this point, it is useful to explain how you, as a manager, or the organisation feel about the subject. Waiting until Step 5 to share your impression gives the employee maximum freedom to explain their unique perspective. The way you feel and how you perceived the employee’s action or behavior is a valuable insight. The employee might have had good intentions for choosing a particular course of action, but if yourself, a coworker or the organisation does not see eye to eye with the employee, they need to know.
Step 6: Offer suggestions and explain consequences
This is a moment for brainstorming. Provide the employee with suggestions or advice for the purpose of broadening perspectives or adding alternative ideas. Invite the employee to participate in an open learning dialogue about the incident or behavior and come up with ideas on the next steps together.
This is also the time when you may need to discuss consequences if the incident hasn’t been solved or if negative behaviour does continue. This step can involve verbal or written warnings.
Step 7: Relinquish control and allow freedom of choice
Step 7 refers to the responsibility of acting upon the feedback. At this point, it is now the employee’s responsibility to decide what to do and how to act upon receiving the feedback. The choice to change or the decision to ignore the feedback is that of the receiver.
There is also a potential 8th step which involves continued support provided by management to aid the employee in change.