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“How am I doing?” That’s the most important question in the business world, yet the most unasked, and unanswered. Why? There are many barriers to workplace communication that often inhibit the free flow of giving and receiving both positive negative feedback (the latter also called constructive criticism).
Yet performance feedback is critical to employee morale, productivity and effective communication. When employees are unsure as to whether they are performing up to expected standards, they experience anxieties and feelings of insecurity—and these are highly detrimental to work performance. In fact, lack of recognition is a top-cited problem in surveys on employee morale. An open communication culture helps foster employee work practices that are both efficient and effective.
Today feedback should come from co-workers as well as supervisors, and it should be given often, not just at performance-review time. As the acronym FAST suggests, feedback should be:
Giving fair, balanced feedback is also important. If a supervisor only gives negative feedback to an employee without ever providing recognition for a job well done, then the employee may feel that all he ever hears are the complaints, never any praise. He may say to himself, “Why should I bother trying to do my best, when no one ever notices or cares.”
Overcoming Feedback Barriers
Often, there are barriers preventing individuals from giving feedback. For example, some supervisors claim that they are too busy to give regular feedback or that “no news is good news.” Others don’t have confidence in their feedback communication skills or may harbor a fear of being disliked by the employee for criticizing a job done poorly.
Most will agree that to give positive feedback is much easier that telling someone that his work performance needs improvement or that his work behavior is inappropriate. However, a good supervisor has to give both positive and negative feedback.
To overcome the barriers for giving constructive criticism and to help avoid or minimize employee resentment, remember these tips:
To develop personally and professionally, we all need input from others. Feedback frequently saves us from future embarrassment and helps us to discover our weaknesses while improving our work performance. It can also reinforce our strengths and capabilities, giving us increased self-confidence.
Employees should actively seek feedback, if they don’t regularly receive it. Everyone has a right to know how they are doing in the workplace. They should listen to both co-workers and supervisors alike. And employees should be open to change, if this is requested.
When the environment and tone of a criticism given by another is warm and supportive, it is much easier for an employee to respond openly to it. But, unfortunately, this is not always the situation. Although we cannot control what someone else says, we can control our response.
Here are six steps for handling criticism from A Complaint Is a Gift by Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller:
For continued business success, one key motivating factor stand outs: appropriate employee feedback. Everyone needs to sharpen their communication skills and try it.
Joan Matochik is president/owner of JM Communications, which specializes in professional development training in the areas of customer service and oral and written communications. A professional speaker, writer and trainer, she has been in business for more than 20 years.