The Importance of Feedback in Organizations and the Role of the Managers in the Process
Feedback is an integral part of any organizations’ workplace procedures. Managers are expected to provide regular feedback to their employees who in turn, are expected to incorporate such feedback into enhancing their performance.
Moreover, feedback is also a necessity as no employee works in a vacuum and needs to be told about his or her shortcomings as well as areas of improvement.
Indeed, the feedback loop is so critical to organisational success that many of them have detailed guidelines on how employees need to be given as well as receive periodic feedback.
Of course, feedback does not always have to be negative and employees can be told whether they have done a good job or more so, an excellent one.
However, it is also the case that feedback has negative connotations mainly because we expect our bosses to point out things rather than praising us.
This is where a skilled people manager or a HR (Human Resource) manager can make a difference by providing accurate, timely, relevant, and nuanced feedback.
We will be discussing what each of these terms mean subsequently. It would suffice to say that feedback is critical.
Feedback must be Accurate and Avoid Speculation and Sexism and Racism
As mentioned above, feedback has to be as accurate as possible meaning that managers must not indulge in airy and speculative comments about the performance of their employees.
Indeed, if there is anything that is objectionable about such feedback, the employees should immediately notify the superiors of their manager or the HR manager.
Further, feedback sessions should not become avenues for gender, racial, and other types of discrimination.
In our working experience, we have come across several instances of managers passing overt and covert sexist or racial comments on their employees during feedback sessions.
This is not only condemnable but also criminal and hence, organisations have to have strict policies on what types of comments are allowed and what are not during the One on One feedback sessions.
Having said that, it is not always the case that managers do not engage in light banter and this is where a nuanced understanding of what is humour and what sexism is and racism is needed.
On the other hand, even negative feedback ought to be delivered in stern but also a polite manner so that the employee receiving the feedback is not demoralised due to that.
Feedback must motivate the employees.
Feedback Must Motivate the Employees and Not Demoralize Them
Talking about motivation, feedback sessions are best done when the manager understands what motivates the employees.
If some employees are in only for the money, then the manager can do precious little about it.
However, if the employee is Intrinsically Motivated, meaning that he or she likes work that is challenging, fulfilling, and self actualising, then the manager must tailor the feedback sessions in formats that address these aspects.
On the other hand, if the feedback is about poor performance, the objective would be to use a Carrot and Stick approach wherein the manager dangles the former by assuring the employee of rewards and recognition if he or she improves their performance and wields the latter if the employee shows no sign of progress or improvement in their performance.
What this means is that the feedback must be relevant to the situation and the context under which the employee is performing.
In addition, timeliness of feedback is also crucial as the employees must be told in time if their performance is lagging and on the other hand, even positive feedback that motivates them to higher performance must also be delivered in a timely manner.
Therefore, feedback has to be periodic.
Feedback about Policy Violations, Discrimination, and Triggers for Termination
While the discussion so far has focused on feedback related to performance, there is yet another type of feedback that typically managers as well as HR managers have to deliver and that is related to organisational expectations, policy violations, and worse, outright unethical or discriminatory behaviour.
The normal rules of the feedback process which we have discussed so far do not apply in such cases and the feedback sessions that are organised for the purposes mentioned above are usually urgent and can lead to termination of service.
Though we have not had the occasion to deal with terminations, we have come across instances of such feedback in our working experience wherein employees were warned of potential consequences of their actions.
Indeed, this type of feedback can be a painful necessity for managers as they have to break the bad news and at the same time, cannot but, give such feedback to the employees as after all, legal and breach of rules can invite punitive action by the authorities.
Therefore, such feedback sessions are usually attended by the HR as well as other managers depending on the type and severity of the violations so that all stakeholders are in the loop.