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Are you delivering feedback as well as you could be?

If you asked 1000 managers what they considered to be the most difficult part of their job, “delivering job-performance feedback” is certain to be one of the top three responses.

Why is it so hard to tell our employees that they’re doing something that’s not working, and needs to change?

Fear of others’ reactions, saying the wrong thing or being labelled a “bully” are common reasons why managers are reluctant to give feedback. Such fears combined with differences in personality and work styles, perspectives and cultural backgrounds can lead to uncomfortable and unproductive feedback situations. In fact, in an extensive literature review Denisi and Kluger (2000) found that in more than one-third of cases, performance feedback actually resulted in decreased performance across the 131 studies analysed.

Despite these challenges, helping employees improve job performance on an ongoing basis is a key responsibility of successful managers. When feedback is delivered well, the benefits are significant not only for the employee, but for the manager and the organisation. So, it’s important to get it right. The following tips will help you deliver feedback more effectively in the workplace.

1. Get the focus right

The feedback you deliver at work should focus on:

a) Job performance and actions. This concerns competency, that is, whether or not the person is capably performing specific tasks assigned.
b) Observable work behaviours. This concerns the way in which tasks are performed, for example, whether the person arrives on time, works cooperatively or speaks courteously and respectfully to others.

Feedback that falls outside these categories, such as statements about someone’s attitude or personal characteristics, can lead to negative outcomes for both parties.

2. Follow a few simple feedback tips

Tip 1 - Create the right environment. Feedback is best delivered in person and in a private setting.

Tip 2 - Provide constructive feedback. Feedback conversations should benefit the recipient, not allow you to vent your frustrations. If you can't think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don't give it. Make sure there is a dialogue and not a monologue. Ensure the recipient leaves the conversation knowing exactly what action to take next.

Tip 3 - Deliver feedback in a timely way. Give feedback as soon after the event as possible. This prevents bottling up of bad feelings about the person’s performance. It also flags the issue or problem at the time it occurs, when the details are fresh in everyone’s minds.

Tip 4 - Talk about feedback in specific terms. Be factual in your discussion and cite specific examples or instances. For example: “I noticed there were several calculation errors in last month’s report”. Focus on the action and the impact.

Tip 5 - Focus on description rather than judgement. Describing behaviour is a way of reporting what has occurred, while judging behaviour is an evaluation of what has occurred in terms of "right or wrong", or "good or bad". By avoiding evaluative language, you reduce the need for the individual to respond defensively.

Tip 6 - Offer suggestions for improvement. If the objective of your feedback discussion is to improve performance, then come equipped with specific suggestions on what the person can do to affect that change. Engage them in coming up with solutions that they can buy into, by asking questions and seeking their thoughts and ideas. If you don’t get buy-in, change will not happen.

3. Follow the steps to effectively deliver the feedback

Step 1 – Be clear about the purpose of your feedback. Indicate what you'd like to cover and why it's important. This focused statement keeps the other person from having to guess what you want to talk about. For example: "I have a concern about…" or "I feel I need to let you know…"

Step 2 – Describe specifically what you have observed. Say when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the results were. Stick to what you personally observed and don't try to speak for others. Avoid talking vaguely about what the person "always" or "usually" does. For example: "Yesterday afternoon, when you were speaking with Sally, I noticed that you kept raising your voice."

Step 3 – Describe your reactions. Give examples of how you and others are affected. When you describe your reactions or the consequences of the observed behaviours, the other person can better appreciate the impact their actions are having on others and on the organisation or team as a whole. For example: "Sally looked embarrassed and I felt uncomfortable about seeing the episode. Shouting at our people is not acceptable behaviour in this department."

Step 4 – Give the other person an opportunity to respond. Indicate that you are waiting for an answer. Remain silent to allow them to answer. For example: "What is your view of this situation?" "What is your reaction to this?" “Tell me, what are your thoughts?"

Step 5 – Offer specific suggestions. Whenever possible make your suggestions helpful. Offering suggestions shows that you have thought past your evaluations and moved to how to improve the situation. Even if people are working up to expected standards, they often benefit from ideas that could help them to perform better. For example: "Jill, rather than telling Ed that you're not interested in all the details, you might try asking him specific questions about the information you are most interested in.”

Step 6 – Summarise and express your support. Review the major points you discussed. Summarise the action items, not the negative points of the other person's behaviour. This summary is an opportunity to show your support for the other person - a way to conclude a possibly negative feedback situation on a positive note. For example: "At least we understand each other better since we've talked. I'll do what I can to make sure your priorities are factored into the schedule, and I'll expect you to come straight to me if the schedule is a problem.”

While it may seem like an added, challenging responsibility to a manager’s already "full plate", managers who provide ongoing and effective feedback against established goals and objectives are actually making their job easier. So, it’s worth investing the time and effort to get it right.

If you or your team are grappling with giving effective feedback or you'd like a fresh perspective about how to help your team move forward, contact Best Practice Consulting today at http://www.bestpracticeconsulting.com.au/contact-us. One of our experienced consultants will be happy to talk to you about practical strategies to increase staff capabilities, maximise staff effectiveness and help your organisation reach its goals.

Conflict in the workplace - do you know what to do?

Everyone has experienced conflict in the workplace; however, few people are able to escape its fallout. And while no office is immune to conflict, how we manage conflict can make an enormous difference to the outcome(s), the impact on others and workplace culture.

  • So, as leader, what do you do about workplace conflict?
  • Are you even aware it is happening?
  • Do you actively identify when it is starting to affect work place morale and productivity?
  • Do you get caught up in the middle of the conflict?
  • Or do you do nothing, hoping the people involved will eventually sort it out themselves, or leave?

As a leader in your organisation, you are responsible for creating a workplace environment that achieves productive outcomes, values the individual and encourages sharing between team members. Leaders are also responsible for mediating conflict in their teams even though many leaders aren't comfortable with this, or simply don't have the skills or training to know how to manage and resolve these situations.

Possible sources of conflict include:

  1. personality differences
  2. disagreements about goals and objectives , or
  3. vastly different work practices and behviours, to name but a few.

 

Conflict in the workplace doesn't just affect the people at the centre of the conflict, rather disagreements and tensions can affect the whole office, creating an environment of discomfort, fear, unhappiness and negativity. This consumes the workplace and affects individual and team morale, productivity and delivery of work, and increases the risk of litigation, if not well-managed.

Avoiding the issue will result in rising tensions. Issues (perceived or actual) will grow commensurate with the growing resentment. As is often the case with built-up resentment, this may conclude in an outpouring of this resentment that is highly emotional and inappropriate, and often at the worst possible time, i.e. in moments of high pressure and stress, looming deadlines or difficult project circumstances.

Getting caught in the middle of the conflict can have equally damaging results. Your ability to be impartial becomes more and more compromised as you become the 'confidante' to the affected parties. Your ability to mediate the situation can be viewed mistrustfully by those affected, as your involvement may be construed as promoting your own agenda in the resolution process. High personal involvement in the conflict may also take its toll on your own personal wellbeing as you get caught-up in the negativity and emotion of the situation.

  • So, how do you manage conflict effectively?

The following steps can help you manage situations that could otherwise cause damage to your team and your organisation.

1. Identify the conflict early

Early intervention will mitigate the potential fallout from the conflict. Your ability to identify the conflict may rely on your ability to read non-verbal cues such as body language and identify who is involved. And, sometimes, it can be as basic as actually acknowledging it is occurring - not hoping it will just go away.

2. Meet with the participants together

Holding separate meetings with the people involved can affect your impartiality, expose you to highly emotional outbursts and compromise your ability to manage the situation without impacting on the rest of the team. Meeting with the participants together demonstrates your commitment to a fair resolution that doesn't take sides.

3. Clearly outline the issue

Ask the participants to outline their issue factually and without any additional emotion or making any personal attacks. The objective here is to ensure each part gets their turn to talk and that each person understands the other.

4. Negotiate outcome(s)

Then ask participants to identify what they see as the solution. This is the starting point for the negotiation, where you will be looked upon to help reach a fair and equitable outcome if the participants are unable to reach agreements themselves. In this instance, you will need to drive the setting of agreed outcomes, as well as establishing review timeframes.

5. Monitor the situation

The hard work isn't done once the meeting is over. You will need to monitor the agreed outcomes, and ensure they are being met. You may need to meet again with the relevant parties.

As a leader, understand that you may only be able to progress the situation so far, and that you may need to involve your HR team or the services of a specialist mediator to get the best outcome. However, mediating conflict resolution is a skill that is vital in your managerial tool kit. While you will never eliminate conflict in the workplace, effective and early intervention can stop disagreements escalating and the dispute impacting on the people around you. If you don't have the right skills, training and/or coaching can assist you.

  • Do you know what to do?
  • What will resolving conflict do for you and your organisation?

If you are worried about conflict in your organisation or you'd like some perspective about what's really taking place in your organisation, call us. The quicker you take action – the quicker one of our business coaches and consultants can help you develop practical strategies to make the necessary improvements in your organisation.

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