It’s Tuesday morning. The boss arrives at work. As he/she makes his/her way to their office, what do the employees hear? Does the boss greet team members with a sincere “Good morning,” “How are you,” etc., or do they hear quick snippets of criticisms and negative feedback regarding previous work?
You may have heard the old adage: Praise in public; criticize in private. This is a singularly on-point leadership practice. Treating all your employees with respect, dignity, and kindness should be the rule rather than the exception. Positively acknowledging those you pass in the hallway, breakroom, meeting rooms, and/or as you come and go out of the building are courtesies your employees should be able to expect from you on a daily basis.
On the other hand, if the boss is doling out fly-by comments such as “Tammy, that social media post was subpar. Get something new up ASAP,” or “Tom, what were you thinking on slide 3 of the presentation?” on their way to their office, a meeting, or wherever is the least productive way to provide informal feedback for the change you want to see.
Feedback given in this manner (so that everyone within hearing distance knows who is on the hot seat) only results in several negative outcomes.
- The person being called out doesn’t know why the post or slide is not acceptable, so they may not be sure how to fix it to your satisfaction.
- It leaves them feeling humiliated and shamed by the public reprimand.
- The rest of the team may feel the need to dive under their desks so they are not next on the “hit list.” (And an anxious team member never performs to the best of their ability.)
- The energy in the office is deflated.
- It causes employees to become disengaged with their job resulting in a decrease in productivity across the board.
- Employees may now be driven to begin the search for a new job with new leadership and a staff culture that is more professional and encouraging.
Giving Negative Feedback
So what is the best way to provide negative feedback? If Samantha dropped the ball and completely missed a client deadline, stop by her office, close the door, and calmly ask what happened and what can be done to prevent this from happening again. Have a two-way conversation. Listen some more. Provide suggestions or affirm the course of action to be taken. Encourage her. This provides Samantha a learning opportunity, guides her in how the company would like business to be conducted going forward, provides the supervisor the opportunity to discover if there’s a way to be more helpful to her, and helps establish the idea that management is there to help her succeed. This is powerful for Samantha, and can be powerful for the team as they take note of the respectful way the situation was handled.
The key is that negative, informal feedback is received best when communicated in a less threatening environment, and achieves better results when handled as a one-on-one conversation in a private setting.
Giving Positive Feedback
Positive feedback, on the other hand, should be doled out freely and publicly when possible. When a team member does a great job, don’t hesitate to stop by their desk and congratulate them or call them out in a weekly staff meeting. If they hit a grand slam on a project, call a mid-morning team break, gather everyone in the breakroom and announce that Derek provided stellar customer service and modeled the company values in how he handled the situation (and tell them how he did that so they can learn from it). In other words, be specific in your praise. Let Derek know why his efforts were successful so he (and the rest of the team) will best understand the company’s expectations of them—and when they’ve met them and/or even surpassed them—and to show that management genuinely recognizes his efforts and accomplishments on the company’s behalf. This is powerful for Derek and the whole team, leaving people feeling encouraged, valued, and recognized.
Lead With Grace
Lead with grace but know that sometimes it will be necessary to exercise tough love in order to correct performance and/or behavior issues. After all, accountability is expected for all employees. When you can, provide feedback as often as you can, both positive and negative. It is in how the leadership handles both aspects of feedback that best demonstrates to your employees your ability to lead with respect, integrity, and kindness.
If you’d like assistance with team leadership, and/or other HR and leadership matters, Close HR can help. Contact us to discuss your needs and how we might assist you.