Good or bad, lack of feedback is hurting employee engagement

When managing employees, giving feedback is one of the most important aspects of your job. Feedback gives your team members the opportunity to better their individual performance while keeping them engaged, aware and feeling valued.

Despite the many benefits, it’s not happening nearly as much as it should. In fact, 65 percent of employees say they want more feedback. While there is a variety of reasons why managers aren’t giving enough feedback, I believe the anxiety of giving corrective critique tops the list.

Where managers’ fears lie

As a people manager, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to muster up the courage to give someone constructive criticism. On many occasions, I have found myself concerned that my employees may not be receptive to my feedback or that our conversation may discourage or demotivate them.

In the past, this fear has gotten the best of me and has caused me to avoid corrective conversations I should have had.

Now that I am a more seasoned people manager, I realize there is a greater risk to an employee’s level of performance and engagement if I don’t let them know what they could be doing better.

I have learned employees want regular feedback and to know their weaknesses even if the message is hard to hear. From my experience, as long as you are regularly communicating with your employees, they, for the most part, will be open to constructive feedback and appreciative of your candor and time.

Employees want tough love

Don’t believe me? A Gallup study shows employees who receive predominantly negative feedback from their manager are over 20 times more likely to be engaged than those who receive little or no feedback.

The study also found employees ignored by their manager are twice as likely to be disengaged compared with workers whose manager focused on their weaknesses.

Ways to lead your constructive feedback

Although having a conversation about a problem is never easy, you can take steps to ensure your message is receptive and effectively delivered.

  • Timing is everything. From my experience, the single most important thing you can do is have the conversation as soon as possible. People are more open to feedback when it’s fresh in their minds. If you wait too long to address the situation, you risk the chance of that person not fully grasping the problem.
  • Be short, sweet and concrete. Many people tune out during constructive conversations. This is why it’s critical to be direct and to give specific examples about your concerns. Being too generic or offering too much positive feedback along with your constructive feedback is bound to overwhelm and confuse the person you are communicating with.
  • Don’t make it personal. To avoid a defensive response back, be sure to talk about the concerning behavior as opposed to the person directly. This can be accomplished by starting your opening statements with, “Your behavior…” as opposed to “You…”

The next time you consider avoiding a corrective feedback conversation, remember―your fears are unfounded. Employees want feedback that will help them grow and this will help keep them motivated and engaged.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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