5 Examples of What NOT to Say to Employees When Giving Feedback

Best Practices, Workplace

By Jimmy Schleisman:

It’s a fact that employees crave feedback and employers must give it if they want an engaged workforce. 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized, while 78% of employees say being recognized motivates them in their job.

Here are 5 examples of how to use #feedback to open up conversation and maintain an inclusive point of view: Click To Tweet

But sometimes attempts to give feedback quickly derail, turning the positive impact into a negative force. One way to prevent feedback miscommunications and maximize employee improvement is to learn how to confront positively. Here are 5 examples of how to use feedback opportunities to open up a conversation and maintain an inclusive point of view:

Feedback Example #1: Ryan

Ryan from Marketing forgot to send the ad dimensions to the design team and now the ad is late. The client is upset and must be offered a discount, not to mention the leads we’re not getting while the ad isn’t up.

ryan reynolds smile gifWhat not to say:

Okay, we need to fix this now!

Why you shouldn’t say this:

Rushing isn’t going to fix anything or address any issues. Sure, the client’s needs come first in this case, but there’s a bigger issue that needs feedback attention, and his name tag reads “Ryan.”

Also what NOT to say, but still better:

Let’s work together to kick this project’s ass super quick!

Why you shouldn’t say this:

This example is slightly better but lacks any finality or follow-up to improve Ryan’s organization skills. Sure the project slip-up might get fixed, but the real issue here is that Ryan needs help, and he’s not going to get any from a quick response.

What to say:

Let’s work together to finish this project as soon as possible and send it to the client for review once it’s completed, and maybe we can ask the Design team to stay late and help. Afterward, let’s all have a meeting to brainstorm ways we can improve organization so that future projects don’t fall through the cracks.

Why you should say this:

Ryan needs to be confronted about his lack of organization and how it impacts other members of his team. Invite him to a post-mortem once the issue has been solved and have him figure out a specific way this can be avoided in the future. For example, he should include a screenshot of the ad dimensions from the media kit in the original task so the design team knows it’s correct.

Feedback Example #2: Kate

Kate from Design is struggling with juggling multiple intense, time-consuming projects that she accepted all at once, thinking she could handle them all on her own. She’s falling behind on little things and they’re starting to pile up, creating backorders and delays for other employees’ projects. It’s a chain reaction that needs to be stopped before it gets worse.

everything hurts and I'm dying gif

What not to say:

Kate, do you need help?

Why you shouldn’t say this:

While asking if the employee needs help is normally seen as a positive question, in this case, it’s redundant. Of course, Kate needs help. She might not have asked for it until this point because she didn’t want to appear incompetent, but the rope is slipping and there’s no hiding the fact that she’s overwhelmed.

What to say:

Kate, what tasks can we delegate elsewhere to lighten the load on your shoulders? What would you say are the most important tasks to your projects and what are the least? Let’s prioritize.

Why you should say this:

It’s specific, it’s explicit in what needs to be done and it addresses the real issue: Kate is tackling too many projects at once. It’s not a question of Kate’s level of competency – it’s about her ability to know when she’s taking on too much. It’s great for employees to want to please employers and showcase their ability to complete multiple projects quickly, but when it becomes too much and it all backs up, it causes dips in company-wide productivity.

Feedback Example #3: Drew

Your new employee Drew is incredibly distracted during his first few weeks. Despite killing it in the interview, he’s constantly chatting up folks at the coffee machine and seems to head to the bathroom every 15 minutes. His productivity is nowhere near where it needs to be and you’re worried his behavior is distracting other employees as well.

man getting text pointing to phone gif

What not to say:

Hey man, get your life together or it’s curtains for your new job!

Why you shouldn’t say this:

While this is direct, it’s also unkind and doesn’t give the new hire any idea what he might be doing wrong. Entry-level hires often find themselves mirroring behavior that while perfectly acceptable at university, is totally not okay in the work world.

What to say:

Drew, we try to keep distractions at a minimum so we can all get out of here on time. Your productivity seems to be suffering from all the breaks you take during the day. What can I do to help you hit our new hire goals before this becomes a pattern?

Why you should say this:

It points out the behavior that affects his team, which is crucial for a new hire. This also is very specific and direct, giving Drew no time to wonder what he’s done wrong and that you have noticed he’s not producing the way he should be. Finally, it shows him that if his behavior continues, it will be an issue going forward and you’re prepared to help him avoid this.

Feedback Example #4: Liz

Your Co-Project Manager, Liz, accidentally messed up an emailing list and now everyone at the office has 400 emails promoting your client’s new product flooding their inboxes. The client also hasn’t received the email test, so now the project has to be pushed back because it didn’t have their final approval. It’s the second time an incident like this has happened this month.

no face miyazaki pushed over by wave of email gif

What not to say:

Seriously, please don’t make this mistake again.

Why you shouldn’t say this:

Simply asking Liz to do better isn’t a solution – it’s a statement. Real improvement requires planning, strategizing and goal-setting. Liz can’t improve if she doesn’t have concrete guidelines to help direct her future success.

#Feedback Example 4 – What NOT to say to employees: Seriously, please don’t make this mistake again. Why? Real improvement requires planning, strategizing and goal-setting, not statements. Click To Tweet

What to say:

Let’s take this situation and make it into a learning experience. We’re going to map out a how-to cheat sheet to help you if you get stumped, then let’s set some goals to hit to help motivate your changes.

Why you should say this:

It promotes a goal-oriented culture in your business and helps employees understand that their actions affect the business as a whole. It shifts the focus from obsessing over mistakes to employee development and establishes a goal plan for how employees can better organize their work process.

Feedback Example #5: Amy

Your top performing employee, Amy, has almost done a 180 flip – she’s seen a major decline in her productivity. She seems disengaged and you’ve dropped hints during her recent performance reviews, but you have genuine concerns for her well-being.

girl placing hands on face in frustration gif

What not to say:

Hey Amy, are you okay?

Why you shouldn’t say this:

To clarify and not to confuse you, asking about the well-being of your employees is always a good thing to do, but in this case, the issue of Amy’s current effort in the workplace needs to be addressed as well.

What to say:

Amy, I’ve noticed changes in your work habits since the beginning of this month. I know how performance-driven you usually are, but is there anything you’re struggling to accomplish that I, or someone from our team, might be able to help with? Also, if there’s ever anything you want to talk about I’m always here to listen.

Why you should say this:

Building strong relationships with your employees is important to keep them engaged. Employees are a part of the company. So if your employees are suffering your business will too. Investing more than just training in your business’s talent will help increase employee retention in the long run because it makes them feel like their well-being matters to you. This helps create intrinsic motivation within them. Offering to help Amy reminds her that she’s a part of a team and her actions also affect everyone, but, more importantly, that she doesn’t have to do things alone 100% of the time.

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