Tell Your Employees They Suck

Improving Employee Performance Through Feedback

My mother used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  

She was talking about being a polite person in society. She was not talking about being a manager whose company depended on her to manage employees for the success of their business.

A manager needs to give their employees feedback. It’s the only way they’re going to improve. You can give them a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down but ultimately you have to tell it to them straight: This is what’s wrong with your performance.

Okay, I’m being a bit facetious when I say tell them “This is what’s wrong with your performance,” you can say it nicer than that, the point is to not beat around the bush when an employee isn’t performing to your expectations.

2 Principle Components For Giving Employee Feedback

  1. Employee feedback should be constructive—meaning you should explain to them what they need to do to improve and why. If you don’t tell your employee what they aren’t doing right, how can you expect them to be the employee you want them to be? Unless they’re telepathic, (which would be so cool), they won’t know what they’re doing wrong until you tell them. And you need to tell them how they can do it better.
  2. Feedback should be done frequently. DO NOT wait until your company mandates it’s time for an annual performance review to tell your employee where they need improvement. Tell them immediately, or as soon as possible, when you notice issues with their work.

How To Give Employee Feedback

  1. Be Prepared

When I say be prepared, I mean prepare the conversation you’re going to have with your employee.

  • Write out the points you want to discuss.
  • Include notes with specific examples of the problem behaviors.
  • Order your points so that the most important points go first. This will help ensure that they’re paying attention.
  • Mix in some positive feedback, (what they’ve done well), so they don’t feel like complete failures.

You also need to prepare a date and time as well as a place to have the conversation. Pick a date and time where you won’t be taking the employee away from an urgent task. Choose a time of day when the employee is likely to have less occupying their mind. For instance, don’t have the meeting too close to the end of the day because their mind will be on going home.

  1. Schedule yourself enough time

Make sure to make space in your daily agenda for the meeting that allows you enough time to get through your points and gives the employee time to respond, ask questions and discuss your points.

  1. Be Human

Look at the situation from the employee’s point of view. Nobody likes to hear that they suck, (even if you don’t say those words exactly).

Imagine that you’re them: Can you feel your cheeks become flush as you fight back tears? Is your heart sinking? Do you feel terrible about yourself?

These are some, if not all, of the feelings your employee will experience when you give them feedback. Keep these in mind and have some compassion. Reassurances that you still value them and that they’re not in trouble may seem a bit like empty platitudes, (unless it’s true, in which case tell them A LOT), but it’s the spoonful of sugar we were talking about.

Most of all, try to remember that you want them to improve. Hiring is a lot of work, it’s a lot better to work on improving your current employee’s behavior than to go shopping for their replacement.


**Parts of this post first appeared on Herd**


Image: bigstock