Back to Basics: Feedback for Managers

May 12, 2022 Aaron Kinne

feedback for managersFeedback. That’s something managers give their employees, right? But the truth is, employees giving feedback to their managers plays an equally vital role in creating a culture of trust – one where all employees have a stake in development and growth. That means today’s leaders have a challenge – and an obligation – to foster a workplace where feedback is encouraged and celebrated across all levels and departments – including feedback from employees to their managers.

Let’s face it … feedback has an image problem. I still recall hearing Dr. David Rock tell us at Workhuman® Live that just hearing the word “feedback” gets your defenses up and sends shivers down your spine. It immediately triggers an emotional defense mechanism and tends to make people shut down. So how can we expect employees to provide feedback – a process already fraught with anxiety, trepidation, and fear – to their own managers?

Empowering employees to give their manager feedback

Empowering employees begins by creating a culture of trust – one in which members of your organization support each other with a wide range of two-way performance feedback that’s celebratory, instructive, and constructive. It’s about creating a culture where people are comfortable giving feedback up, down, and across an organization. And it’s about helping all employees realize their full potential. 

Quoted in an article for SHRM, Rosette Catalado, continuous performance management SME at Workhuman®, points out that two-way feedback creates “moments of connection, sharing, and transparency for both parties. These regular meetings create the bonds of relationships, and these bonds are the foundation of the trust and psychological safety needed for employees to feel empowered to give their manager feedback.”

So how do you create the trust needed to foster a vibrant, productive culture of feedback? “Trust begins with top-management being transparent in its communications with employees at all levels,” notes John Rossheim in a Workhuman blog. “Strict, top-down models of management, familiar as they are, often fail to engender trust … So good managers don’t just issue directives, they consistently solicit two-way communication and feedback.”

How managers can encourage employee feedback

But even in a culture of trust and feedback, there are challenges that impede a free flow of feedback from employees to managers. According to the SHRM article, the higher leaders are in the organizational structure, the less likely they are to solicit feedback – or hear it or act upon it when it is given. These same leaders tend to mistakenly assume that their employees will give them feedback without asking for it.

“It’s really up to managers to carefully and consistently create opportunities for direct reports to give not just feedback, but genuine feedback,” notes SHRM. “Being willing to take a hard look in the mirror as a manager can go a long way.” The article points out that constructive feedback for managers begins with communication and opportunities. First, tell employees that you – as their manager – want their feedback; and second, give them the opportunities to provide it. Once those elements are in place, there are a few questions for employees to consider when giving constructive feedback to their managers.

How do I give feedback to my manager?

As an employee, remember that managers are humans, too, and will want the same kind of empathy and compassion that you yourself expect. Put yourself in a positive state of mind and avoid giving feedback when you’re stressed or anxious; that will come through in your meeting.

Be clear and succinct and provide details and specifics. And if you’re offering thoughts on a particular event, don’t let too much time elapse. Finally, share your thoughts on how to improve things moving forward.

What are some examples of positive and constructive feedback for managers?

It’s always best to avoid the personal and focus instead on business impact – both at the departmental and organizational level. Managers need to know that their actions, words, and management style are tightly intertwined with productivity and results – and the bottom line. As an example, an employee might tell a manager that her vague or incomplete direction meant a project took longer than it should – and resulted in time and money wasted.

How can I help create a culture of trust and feedback in my organization?

When it comes to creating a culture of trust and continuous feedback – a workplace where feedback is encouraged and celebrated across all levels and departments – many world-class organizations have turned to flexible software solutions such as Conversations®, part of Workhuman® Cloud. With such solutions, feedback can be requested and received by anyone at any time.

A culture of feedback

The way we work is changing for the better – shifting toward networks of fast-moving teams, high collaboration, and continuous feedback. In such an environment, the need for free-flowing stream of feedback between all levels and titles becomes more important than ever. A culture of feedback becomes the baseline on which growth happens and creates the foundation on which constructive dialogue becomes a welcomed learning opportunity.

About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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