Recently, a European survey commissioned by Dale Carnegie Training found that only 34 percent of employees felt fully engaged in their work, leaving much room for improvement. Employees stated that their emotions (and engagement) were driven by the behavior of their immediate supervisors. The quickest way to disengagement? When a manager made an employee feel insulted. To avoid this issue and maintain employee engagement, here’s how to give employee feedback and constructive criticism in a positive way:
Let an employee come to his or her own solution
There will be times you have to re-direct a wayward employee, but urge them to find their own path to success (with guidance, of course). Dale Carnegie Trainers note that if an employee feels invested in a solution, he or she will be more likely to “own” it and follow through on it.
Praise early and often
Another way to avoid making employees feel criticized is to consistently praise good employee performance instead of focusing on mistakes. Executive coach Anne Loehr refers to this as “catching your employee doing something right.” She says: “If you only point out an employee’s mistakes, you’re training him to expect criticism every time you open your mouth, which is hardly motivating.”
When sandwiching criticism, use “and”
Dale Carnegie Trainers teach that it’s more effective to use the word “and” than “but” when you’re giving employee feedback. For instance: “Our sales numbers were solid this term, but next month we should aim 10 percent higher.” As compared to “Our sales numbers were solid this term, and next month we should aim 10 percent higher.” A simple word switch completely changes how the input is received.
Check in regularly
Executive coach Suzanne Bates says that it’s a mistake to wait for annual reviews to give employee feedback, particularly if it’s negative. “In my first career as a television reporter, we used to critique our own shows daily, and our boss never held back. I appreciated that, because I knew where I stood, and I got a lot better a lot faster,” says Bates. Pull the individual aside and give feedback when you notice a problem with employee performance instead of allowing it to fester. Keep your criticism brief and focused on the problem — not the person. In other words, make the criticism professional, not personal.
Share your own missteps
In their curriculum, Dale Carnegie Trainers remind supervisors to share their own mistakes and avoid direct (and especially personal) criticism. Stories can be great way to do all of these things. Executive coach Suzanne Bates shares this great example from a senior vice president who encouraged a chronically late employee to change her behavior: “She told the employee how years ago she had been traveling with her CEO, and the CEO was always down in the lobby before she was. Finally she got the message, and started arriving ten to fifteen minutes early. Her relationship with the CEO immediately improved.” By sharing that personal (and inspirational) story, she gave useful performance feedback — but didn’t insult the employee.