This article was updated on July 6, 2018.
Providing constructive feedback to an employee is one of the toughest parts of being a small or midsized business owner. It's not easy to tell an employee their performance needs improvement. That's why it's important to learn how to effectively give constructive feedback in the workplace. These pointers can help.
Choose the Right Setting
Pick an appropriate time, place and individual to offer feedback. Don't get caught up in the moment and lash out at an employee when you notice a mistake, especially in front of other staff members or customers. Instead, schedule a private meeting where you won't be disturbed. Focus on delivering your message to the employee, and allow enough time for the employee to respond to the concerns raised.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
Try to conceal frustration when providing constructive feedback by preparing speaking points in advance and focusing on the issues and work product. During the meeting, be thoughtful about how you deliver the message to help avoid saying something you might regret.
Focus on Actions and Plans
Your feedback should be focused on the employee's performance and work product, not on the employee themselves. For example, rather than questioning work ethic, talk specifically about missing deadlines or targets. In addition, be prepared to lay out expectations and offer clear steps on how an employee can improve their performance. Take care to consider whether you're unfairly targeting certain employees with your feedback. Think about whether you'd give feedback to another employee for the same reason; if not, it could give rise to legal claims of discrimination or unfair treatment.
Offer a Chance for Further Discussion
Allow the employee the chance to provide their own feedback, thoughts and ideas about the situation and how to improve, which can be a great learning experience for both parties. Let the employee know you'd be happy to discuss the issue further at a follow-up meeting. You can also take the initiative to propose a follow-up meeting to check in on the employee and see if they have other thoughts or concerns on the feedback or action plan.
Train Your Employees
To make your employees more receptive to constructive feedback in the workplace, run an annual training class on effectively delivering feedback that incorporates managing emotions and active listening. It would only take a few hours to cover the basics of these important skills. As part of this training, emphasize how part of employee development is to receive and respond to feedback and constructive feedback, which can ultimately help improve their careers.
Create a Learning Experience
Consider indirect ways to provide feedback and improve performance. For example, if you notice a number of employees have the same productivity issue, nominate a small task force to identify the problem impacting productivity and design solutions. Some workers might learn more from this approach rather than through direct feedback from you.
Giving constructive feedback may not be fun, but the right techniques can help make the process more pleasant and productive for everyone.