Why Managers Dread Giving Performance Feedback

Do you become anxious at the thought of giving performance feedback? If you are a manager and the answer is yes, you are in good company. Results of a recent Gallup poll of 2,000 managers found that 69 percent of managers have difficulty communicating in general, and 37 percent find it hard to give negative feedback to a subordinate. Why is it so hard?

Some of it has to do with personality style and history. If a manager is reserved or grew up in a family where communication was problematic, he/she may be more apt to struggle with difficult conversations. Work conversations can add another level of complexity to what may already be a challenging situation. Avoiding performance discussions may provide immediate relief, but makes it more difficult in the long run for both you and the employee.

Most employees want to have regular communication with their managers. They like knowing where they stand and getting feedback about their performance. No one likes to hear that they are disappointing others; however, employees would rather hear it now than find it out later.

How Managers Can Improve Communication:

  1. Start building a relationship by getting to know what motivates each person. Have a conversation with your direct reports and ask them their thoughts about receiving feedback. Share your philosophy about feedback and the positive aspect of it even when it’s intended to correct an aspect of performance.
  2. Set a regular time to check in with your direct reports and keep those appointments. Don’t save up constructive feedback because it may take on a life of its own. Create an agenda for frequent, short meetings and ask employees to come prepared with their discussion topics as well. These meetings are the foundation of effective communication.
  3. Learn how to blend positive and negative feedback so you are routinely giving some of each. Check in after a conversation has occurred to see what the employee heard and how he/she is feeling. Ask questions so that you can truly understand. Ask for feedback from your direct reports. Things like, what do they need more or less of from you. The key is to LISTEN.

It’s important to move forward with employee communication, even if it causes you discomfort. Studies have shown that employee engagement is higher when there is good communication within work groups. From an employee perspective, knowing where you stand with your manager reduces stress and makes work more enjoyable. Managers also find that when they improve communication with their employees, they also improve their own job satisfaction.

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