10 Most Common Mistakes When Giving Employees Constructive Feedback


Providing employees feedback is part of employee relations. Constructive feedback can be invaluable for the growth and development of employees. Mistakes in providing feedback can happen along the way. This can be counterproductive to positive employee relations. The following 10 common mistakes highlights what to avoid when giving employees constructive feedback.

  1. Assume they know what you are talking about

A common mistake when giving employees feedback is starting the conversation without explaining the circumstances as to what prompted the meeting. Although business owners can have a deep understanding of a situation, bringing in an employee that may not have the same information can be confusing to the employee. In some cases, if an employee feels they are being “talked to” for their behavior, they may shut down instead of asking for an explanation. Before providing feedback, be aware of how much an employee knows.

  1. Giving feedback in front of others

One of the biggest mistakes a manager can make is to reprimand an employee in front of others. Managers are busy. They may walk down a hall and see an employee which triggers them to address a situation in an impromptu manner.   However, giving constructive feedback in front of others can make everyone feel uncomfortable and can serve to make a situation worse. The affected employee may become less productive as they are embarrassed. They may return to their computer and immediately start looking for a new job.

  1. Giving feedback too late

Waiting until an employee’s review or waiting several weeks to provide constructive feedback can complicate a situation. Giving this type of feedback right away is the best approach. When information arrives too long after the situation that prompted it, an employee may not remember all the details of the situation in question.

  1. Pointing fingers

The most unproductive approach to providing employee feedback is to be accusatory. For example, saying “I know it was you who gave the wrong information to the client” is not helpful. Instead, it can be demoralizing to an employee and result in a negative working relationship.

  1. Pitting employees against each other

Pitting employees against each other can create a toxic work environment. For example, a manager saying “Kyle told me you were the one who gave the client the wrong information.” This creates a situation where the employee now blames Kyle for getting them in trouble. Pitting employees against each other doesn’t result in a positive outcome and will almost always lead to a toxic workplace.

  1. Not allowing employees to provide feedback

Providing constructive feedback without asking for the employee’s side of the story can leave a situation unresolved. Employees need to feel heard by letting a manager know what happened and why. This also gives employees an opportunity to view a situation objectively.

  1. Not being fully engaged in listening to employees

When an employee is providing feedback, it is important to fully listen to what they are saying. Busy managers can have their own distractions such as emails or incoming phone calls. It is easy to fall into the trap of taking a quick moment to respond to an email, but this is counterproductive. When an employee is providing feedback, it is important that they have your undivided attention.

  1. Dancing around the issue

One of the least favorite responsibilities of a manager is to provide constructive feedback. Often a manager will request a meeting about such a subject and end up never addressing it. They may talk about other things and completely avoid the point of what it was that prompted the meeting. No matter how challenging providing constructive feedback can be, dancing around the issue will just make a situation worse.

  1. Not assuming responsibility

Managers have oversight when it comes to an employee’s work.   Because of this, if something goes wrong, a manager holds some responsibility. Acknowledgment of this fact when providing constructive feedback to an employee will help to recontextualize the situation. It becomes “our” problem instead of “your” problem.

  1. Not viewing feedback as a development opportunity

Every constructive feedback conversation is a development opportunity for both the employee and the manager. Making development part of the constructive feedback conversation will create a learning environment by providing a way to acknowledge and grow from a mistake.

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