Providing corrective feedback: Trend toward tendencies instead of absolutes

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An important skill of any manager is the ability to provide performance feedback.  However, many managers prefer to delay providing performance feedback because of fear of the impression it creates to address an issue with an employee.

For example, managers will delay providing feedback based on fears that the employee will think that manager has forever judged the employee as doing the job incorrectly.  Or, perhaps, since the evidence is there that the job is being performed at a lower level, the manager will, indeed, judge the employee as forever being less capable of doing the job. That is, if the manager is providing feedback, they have rendered final judgment.  With attitudes like this, you could see how both the manager and the employee dread performance feedback conversations.

Neither of these interpretations of what performance feedback achieves is appropriate.  Providing final judgment of the employee is not the point of performance feedback.  Providing performance feedback is a discussion aimed toward changing behaviors for the better, and has been discussed in this blog previously, the more specific and more immediate, the more artful the feedback.  Once performance feedback has been provided, if the job performed improves, then that dreaded final judgment is, by definition, wrong.

So how to help get past this “final judgment” issue?  In today’s post, I provide a way of talking about the behaviors of an employee that is less absolute and provides a more likely path for improvement for the employee.  Here’s the tip:

As you transition to making the evaluation and correction, provide qualifiers – “it is a trend” or “it’s a tendency” — that do not imply absolutes. Read more