Why One Size Does Not Fit All When it Comes to Feedback

Julie Shenkman
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Giving constructive feedback doesn't just mean providing a performance review once a year about an employee's conduct, what he could do better or how good he is at adapting to the company culture. It also involves letting employees know about expectations in the workplace, whether that involves the dress code, when it's appropriate to use a mobile device or how to work as a team. An effective constructive feedback process starts with an individualized approach.

Use an Individualized Approach

Managers need to recognize that not all employees are the same. When an employee is hired, sit down with him and ask him what type of evaluation he prefers. Does he want to meet regularly with you once a month, with a more formal evaluation after six months and then a year? Maybe he prefers to be more autonomous and have you come to him if you see issues rather than him going to you with constant questions. Be clear about your expectations for him and his performance, and when you do have to give constructive feedback about his behavior, try to remain neutral and not be judgmental.

Technology has changed the way people view feedback, and some people expect an almost on-demand response to their requests for evaluation. Employees may want to know where they can improve and start making those changes right away, rather than finding out a year later they should have been doing something else.

Give Solutions, Not Just Criticism

Constructive feedback comes about when you balance out criticisms with solutions. An employee may not be doing a good job and needs to know there's a problem. But just telling him there's a problem isn't enough. A good manager offers up solutions for how an employee can improve his performance. For example, if an employee has trouble getting to work on time or isn't following the dress code, a manager must first make sure the employee understands the expectations of the workplace. Sitting down and having an honest conversation first is vital in the constructive feedback process. Is there an established time when the employee is supposed to be at work, or does everyone seem to come in at different times? Is there a dress code to enforce? For an employee to be able to make positive changes, he needs to be given clear expectations of what the company wants from him. Then, if he continues to exhibit the same behavior, give him specific examples of where he's disregarding company rules, and help him come up with specific solutions of how to fix those problems. Balancing out criticisms with solutions is also a good strategy to use during regular performance reviews.

Most employees put their best foot forward on the job, as this often translates to bonuses, raises and recognition. A frequent constructive feedback process lets employees know where they stand and helps them pinpoint areas that need improvement. A one-size-fits-all feedback approach doesn't work for everyone, as different employees have different motivations and values.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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