How to give supportive feedback

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How to give supportive feedback

Receiving well delivered feedback is an important learning tool. Most people want to know how they performed, especially if things don’t go to plan.

Regular, well-delivered feedback can contribute to creating a culture of learning and development in the workplace focusing less on failure or success.

It is important to give feedback in a constructive, skilled way which leaves the employee feeling empowered and clear about how to improve rather than crushed and under-confident.

Giving and receiving feedback should be a two-way interaction. It requires the giver to be competent in giving feedback and the receiver to be open and willing to receive it.

There are certain things that will help this process:

Ahead of the meeting

Set up protected time in a confidential space. Make this meeting a priority and do not rearrange, postpone or cancel.

Let the employee know what the feedback is about ahead of the meeting. It might be a regular review, or it might be in relation to a specific subject.

Ensure that feedback is timely so that it is relevant for the employee and fresh in both your minds.

Make sure that you have a full understanding of the feedback you are giving. Do not give feedback on behalf of someone else.

During the meeting

Ask the employee what they felt about the issue you are feeding back about and how it went - active listening is a key skill here.

Be specific and have examples of the events you are feeding back about - this is for what went well and what could be improved on.

Be objective - do not make comments about personal characteristics of the person.

Don’t avoid difficult topics - plan carefully how you will raise them and remember key communication skills e.g. empathy will help.

Concluding the meeting
  • Agree steps on how to develop, modify or improve on the current task

  • Set a review date for feedback after the next task

  • Allow some space at the end of the meeting for the employee to mention anything else. Sometimes, the employee will only have the courage to say what is really on their mind right at the end of the meeting

  • Follow up via email with brief points of what was discussed so you are both clear on the actions going forward

Remember feedback does not always have to be given formally. Check in with your team regularly, and schedule one-to-ones so that they have space to bring up what might be concerning them. Establishing these practices will make it easier should you have to give difficult feedback.

If you have never learnt how to give feedback, ask your employer for some training. Practice giving feedback and ask for feedback on how you have delivered your feedback!


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