Afraid to Provide Feedback

I recently read an article that talked about how ratings for gig economy service providers are at an all-time high, but the high ratings are not necessarily because service levels are at an all-time high.  The conclusion of the article is that ratings are inflated because customers don’t want to say negative things about other people.  In some ways this goes back to one of the golden rules which is if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  I think rating inflation also points to another issue.  People don’t want to do the hard work of helping someone improve.

I see the same effect in personnel evaluations.  Supervisors want to take the easy road and tell an employee that their performance during the past year was not just fine, but increasingly, that the performance was exemplary.  Educators have talked for years about grade inflation, and the same phenomenon is going on in work evaluations.  Some companies fight the trend by creating rules that force distributions across all ratings.  The problem with such a requirement is that it can force managers to give undeserved ratings on both the high and low end of the scale.

The real solution to rating inflation is in the mirror.  We supervisors must take giving ratings seriously and embrace the hard work of telling our staff about their actual performance – the good and the bad.  I think one of the reasons that mentorship programs are all the rage today is because people are starved for actual feedback on how to improve.  Supervisors are not doing their employees any good by sugar coating feedback.  Here are three thoughts on how to get started in giving better feedback.

Take the time to give feedback – this means taking the time to really observe what your employees are doing, and then making the time to give feedback, both good and bad, constantly.  I know we are all busy and have a thousand deadlines, but if you aren’t observing and providing feedback then you aren’t supervising, and you need to find another job, probably at lower pay, where no one reports to you.

Truly be constructive – criticizing someone is easy.  Finding a way to help someone improve is much harder.  Start with eliminating the word ‘but’ from all your evaluations and discussions.  From there, think about what advice you would want your employee to embrace if you ended up working for them some day.  Who knows, such an event might occur.

Extraordinary ratings deserve extraordinary performance – if you can’t point to what the person did that was unusual and far above expectations, then maybe the person should just get a solid good performer rating.  I’ve been working for thirty years and have done some extraordinary things on occasion, but most days I show up and do the work expected of me.  Yes, I’ve deserved some extraordinary ratings, but I’ve also deserved a lot of good solid, job well done ratings.  As supervisors we shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone they did a good job.  What is so bad about that?

In the end, you will sleep better knowing you were honest in your assessments, and your employees will eventually appreciate the help you provided in enhancing their performance which will open more, not fewer, career opportunities.

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