When Employees Give Feedback

Performance reviews, while they’ve earned a bad rap, mean well. They’re intended to help develop employees and assist them in reaching their work-related goals. Or, at least, they should be.

An element of the performance review that is often overlooked, however, is feedback. Not feedback from managers to their employees (there’s no shortage of that), but the other way around.

As a leader, welcoming feedback from employees can be difficult. Not to mention, giving that feedback can be intimidating for employees. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. The question is, are you listening?

The next time performance reviews come around, consider switching seats and have employees review you. Here’s how:

1. Get more employee-specific with your leadership

It’s easy to get caught up in the “big picture” of a business, but doing so can potentially lead to a disjointed workforce. Paying more attention to this broad view can negatively impact the human side of business—the satisfaction of employees, customers, shareholders, and others who interact with the company.

To resolve this issue and become a better leader in the eyes of your most important asset, your employees, put more value on employee feedback. A 2013 study of 51,896 executives from leadership development firm Zenker Folkman found that the best leaders appear to ask more people for feedback—and more regularly.

Giving feedback can be intimidating for employees. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say.

Leaders who ranked in the top 10 percent in asking for feedback were rated at the 86th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness, whereas those who ranked at the bottom 10 percent in asking for feedback were rated at only the 15th percentile.

2. Make employees feel valued

Leaders who strive to learn and better themselves are well-respected by employees—even more so when they use employee’s feedback to do so. To make employees feel valued in the workplace, take the time to ask them questions regarding your performance as well as that of the organization.

Questions like, “If you were in my shoes, what would you do and why?” or “What do you like/dislike about my management style?” shows employees that you genuinely care about their opinions. Employees who feel valued at work are much more likely to go the extra mile for their company, as discussed in this 2012 release by the American Psychological Association (APA).

3. Create a positive company culture

Welcoming both praise and criticism from employees takes down the structural walls that exist in a vertical leadership structure. It shows employees that everyone in an organization, no matter what their email signature might read, is capable of improvement.

Any leader can dish out criticism, but leaders who can (and want to) take it are rare. Asking employees for feedback, while sometimes difficult to swallow, is necessary for the growth of managerial leadership within an organization.

Most importantly, as a leader who’s both approachable and open to employee input, you’re likely to create a more positive company culture that breeds productive, happy employees. Successful leaders realize that a strong company culture and positive workplace relationships are based on open, honest communication from everyone within an organization.

Leaders who strive to learn and better themselves are well-respected by employees—even more so when they use employee’s feedback to do so.

4. Encourage innovative ideas

A company’s employees are often the greatest source for fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. After all, they’re likely to see and hear things that are not always visible to you.

Encourage employees to share their thoughts and opinions on company-related matters. Ask them for their input on how things can be done differently and actively listen when an employee makes a suggestion.

Avoid dismissing an employee’s ideas too often, as it can have lasting damage on workplace communication. Instead, try to understand and respect their point of view. Managers may be surprised at what employees can contribute.

5. Embrace personal—and impersonal—communication

While employees may have a lot to say about what’s working—or not working—in an organization or with management, they most likely feel intimidated to give their two cents. To make employees feel more comfortable giving feedback, try meeting with them in small groups or in an informal, one-on-one setting.

Still not convinced employees are saying all that they need to say? Try administering anonymous employee surveys or putting a comment box outside of your office. Employees might feel more inclined to offer feedback—especially if they disagree with or criticize something—if it can’t be traced back to them.

Do you give employees an opportunity to supply feedback? How do go about obtaining honest opinions? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

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Matt Straz

Matt Straz is the founder & CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

  • Ann Sazon

    Very well said. I definitely share this article managers I know because they should understand about providing or accepting feedback. Employees definitely should be encouraged to give feedback.The suggestion about anonymous feedback is a good one. Although some feedback is not positive, it helps companies to know where to improve. That helps all employees. I have heard of a company that helps salespeople get feedback when they are looking for a job. Invisume is a platform that connects salespeople with hiring managers without their current company knowing about it. Because of their reputation, I signed up at the site – http://invisume.com and look forward to reading new posts.

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