Giving feedback emotionally is far too often neglected. Giving positive or negative feedback is not about the words you use, it's about the emotional connection you establish and ultimately the physical response you get! We all know the importance of giving feedback to employees, but most of us are struggle to really understand the how to effectively give positive or negative feedback to our employees, peers or superiors!
From my perspective, too many managers thinks that the essence of giving feedback to their employees is in what they say, but fail to realize, that the importance of feedback is in how it is internalized by the person receiving the feedback, not in the words you choose to communicate the information. It's about giving feedback emotionally. You want to have a positive impact on your employee's motivation when providing feedback in order to make certain that a positive behavioral change will occur.
Often, I see manager that feel a surge of positive emotions after they have given some negative feedback to an employee. They feel good; they feel important as they just got an ego boost! They feel that they are the greatest leader alive because they were able to provide their employee with negative feedback. Most need to think about it for days, just to draw up enough courage or they simply say the words and block all of their emotions. Then in their mind, the task is done! Well, I think that they have missed the whole purpose of giving feedback in the first place! Giving feedback to employees is a continuous process that requires follow-up on the feedback given; it's not the last step of the process.
It is a common belief, that positive feedback is the most practiced, in comparison to negative feedback, among supervisor and managers in today business communities; however, I believe that there are too many supervisors and managers that are guilty of malpractice in the world of giving feedback emotionally! How many of you have gotten the famous pat on the back with a verbal "Good Job!"? Bet you all did! I'm also certain that you can count on one hand the number of times that you got "that" praise where you felt an emotional connection with your superior, where you felt the electric pulses passing from his being to yours, where the charge of emotion made you really feel appreciated and resulted in an explosion of positive feelings traveling through your body charging you with enough energy to give you the power to take any challenges that confront you and turn them into a success story.
Why do most managers give this very robotic feedback? Managers learn to give feedback to their staff yet they never learn how to give feedback that will generate results. They rarely ask themselves if the feedback was effective, but one thing for sure is that they expect the employees to be motivated and in the case of negative feedback they expect the employee's behavior to change.
What is important to understand is that positive feedback is only precious to the employee if the supervisor or the manager is emotionally connected with that employee. As the supervisor or manager you need to be continuously mindful of the emotional state of your employees. In other words, you need to remain connected at a human level, you need to live the ups and down with them, you need to coach and mentor your employees, and you need to truly invest yourself into them. Then and only then, will you be in a position to give effective positive or negative feedback that will result in behavioral changes and will positively enhance your staff motivation. Otherwise, you will mistakenly think you are giving positive feedback, but in all actuality, you are generating negative feeling that will only results in adversely affecting motivation, not developing it.
The same is true for negative feedback; you can actually give negative feedback to someone and by doing so, you can generate a positive response. In popular terms we refer to this as constructive criticism. But once again, the magic is in the connection you have established with your employee. This connection is not one that is created in the present, it's one that sees its birth in the past and continues into the future. Everyone wants to hear positive and negative feedback, some actually seek it, but we only want to hear it from those to whom we feel emotionally connected.
The art of feedback is not only limited to the emotional connection, the context in which the feedback is given is equally as important. Imaging that you have this great connection with your employee, but you tell him that is performance is below average and you make that statement in the lunch room in front of all of his co-workers. Will the feedback be internalized by your employee in a positive manner? I don't think so. In fact, that employee will more than likely feel intimidated and will automatically enter in a state of self-defence. His focus will be on the lack of tact that you demonstrated instead of focusing on how to improve his performance. I won't even mention the feelings and embarrassment of others in the room. Has the feedback serve its intended purpose? No!
The purpose of feedback regardless of whether it's positive or negative is to stimulate a positive behavioral change in the person receiving the feedback. More specifically, in the case of positive feedback, you want to have the particular behavior increase in frequency and in the case of negative feedback you want to incite a new behavior that is more harmonious with your needs or will simply eliminate the undesirable behavior.
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