How to Inspire Employees Through Critical Feedback

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Bobbie Byrd

How to Inspire Employees Through Critical Feedback

Almost invariably, when the time rolls around for annual performance reviews, a collective moan wafts through businesses, large and small, across the country. Not only does this group groan echo from the production floors and office cubicles, it reverberates through the halls of upper management.

The reason? Too many performance reviews are basically a waste of time. Instead of motivating employees to improve job performance, thus boosting productivity and goal accomplishment, annual performance reviews are falling flat. According to Gallup, in their State of the American Workplace report released in 2017, only 21 percent of employees surveyed strongly agree that their job performance is being effectively managed in a way that motivates them to produce exemplary work.

Performance Appraisals That Matter

Employee motivation is not a new topic. A company or business is only as good as its workforce. When employees say they feel their performance is not effectively managed, they're telling managers that they want effective, honest appraisals in a timely manner. The best way to accommodate this employee need is constructive critical feedback.

Constructive criticism doesn't have to end in hurt feelings and employee turnover. According to Psychology Today, research indicates that candid, honest and constructive feedback can foster "higher performance and employee resilience" when presented in a positive, supporting manner.

Productive Criticism

When employees receive job performance feedback in an honest, supportive way, it is immensely more effective than blunt criticism. In fact, an "in-your-face" approach to criticism becomes a personal affront in the eyes of most employees, leading to increased job dissatisfaction and lower productivity. No manager should be seeking such an outcome.

Rather, honest constructive criticism should have positive outcomes.

  • It should motivate employees to improve job performance
  • It should be clear, with no margin for misinterpretation
  • It should uplift the employee rather than denigrate him or her.

An effective manager gives regular, helpful feedback in a way that encourages, rather than discourages, employee performance. This is a cornerstone of effective management.

Rules for Giving Effective Performance Appraisals

Employee performance appraisals should be "critical," meaning "important, imperative or discerning." Managers should deliver constructive, honest and candid feedback in a way that doesn't leave the employee feeling like he or she has been "ambushed."

  • By nature, human brains focus on negative more than positive. For this reason, productive constructive criticism includes roughly five times as many positive elements as negative.
  • The appraisal should focus on the employee's strengths and unique contributions. Make sure the feedback is as specific about the positive as it is about the negative.
  • Don't make it personal; keep it objective when speaking about negative aspects of job performance. Identify the problem situation, discuss objective consequences rather assigning blame, then offer a choice of acceptable alternatives.

Beyond Performance Appraisals

According to Harvard Business Review, employees see constructive criticism as corrective feedback, and it is something they want. There are effective alternatives to the dreaded annual performance appraisal, however.

  • Self-appraisal helps employees take responsibility for their own job performance.
  • Implementing an employee-initiated review system gives employees the opportunity to request a managerial review whenever they feel immediate feedback would be beneficial to their job performance.
  • Comprehensive feedback provides the employee input on his or her job performance from different people with which the employee interacts: managers, peers, different department heads and external customers.
  • Peer appraisals can improve teamwork and facilitate growth in interpersonal skills among employees. It can help your teams gain cohesion, thus increasing creativity and productivity.
  • Schedule employees into coaching sessions with trained performance coaches. Coaching can be a more relaxed, informal experience for the employee, and is an excellent adjunct to appraisals.

The bottom line is this: managers and employees must interact on an open, honest level in order to achieve mutual goals in the workplace.

Written by:

Bobbie Byrd
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I hold a BA degree in Social Studies Education and recently retired from my teaching career. Before that, I worked for approximately 20 years as a registered nurse. During my spare time, I ran my own cottage business, marketing my own custom designed jewelry. My life experiences have taught me quite a bit about myriad topics. I am now embarked on a freelance writing career. I have been ghostwriting for various clients since March 2015. I can write on just about any subject, from whatever point of view the client desires - from glowing recommendation to scathing rebuke. I am...
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