Managers at every organizational level agree unanimously that one of the most difficult aspects of leadership is giving people helpful, constructive feedback. When asked why, their answers are wide-ranging. Many even have reasons for not praising people for doing a good job. The most common being “if I reinforce everything they do right, they will want more money at performance review time.” Sure they will! AND, they will want more money if you don’t recognize their good work as well. Yet, managers withhold a powerful motivator – recognition for work well done – because they fear the reaction. They withhold constructive feedback for the same reason: they fear the reaction.
Many managers have confided that they withhold constructive feedback because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, they don’t want to lose an individual’s cooperation or support, or they don’t want the person to feel worthless, diminished, etc. All of these rationalizations for withholding feedback are based on faulty B. S. (a misguided Belief Set) that people are not adult enough to handle information about their behavior.
Not only are people able to handle feedback, they feel cheated when they don’t hear about how they are doing. And, no leader wants to rob people of what they need to do a good job.
So, what to do? Don’t tell people that they are doing a good job when they are not. A clear, non-threatening description of what is or is not happening is more authentic. Most importantly, it is helpful and useful to the person who is underperforming. For example, if your comment regarding a direct report’s mediocre presentation is a curt “good presentationit is not only untrue, it is also vague and misleading. A candid, helpful and more powerful reply would be, “Your presentation would have been more effective if you had presented the rationale for your recommendations.” Candid, constructive, compassionate feedback frees people from worrying about what you really think. It honors people because it conveys that you trust them to hear, handle and accept it as an opportunity to learn and grow. A feedback-rich work environment is a trusting, productive, and profit-rich environment! . ,”