Done wrong, feedback sessions can be counter-productive and nerve-wracking for all concerned. Done right, feedback can be the path to employee greatness. Effectively communicating what works and what doesn’t to employees is a skill; and as with any skill there are a few principles.
Keep your cool. You may be annoyed or even angry. Leave those emotions behind. That means no sarcasm, yelling or eye-rolling. A defensive employee won’t be receptive. Let employees know you’re on the same team. Conduct the session in private.
Make it positive. There’s nearly always something you can praise. Find it. But remember, it’s not about making employees feel good. Feedback is about improving performance. Positive phrasing such as “I liked your approach on that project, but what if …” can help employees become creative partners in the effort to improve performance.
Be specific. If you don’t know exactly what employees need to do to improve, you can’t expect them to know, either. “I need more from you” is not feedback. “I need more help from you in keeping the departmental records up to date,” is better.
Limit the issues. Try to keep feedback to just one or two points. Important feedback can get lost in a laundry list of issues. A long list of things to do better can also make people feel under siege. That’s why regular feedback is so important.
Stick to the issues. Write down what you want to talk about, and stick with that. If another thing that bugs you occurs during the feedback session, make a note and address it in a future meeting.
Praise in public; criticize in private. Public criticism can ruin an employee’s day. More importantly, it can cost the company money by harming that employee’s productivity. No one minds being praised in front of others.