5 New Manager Guidelines for Effective Feedback

Individual hands are raised holding differently colors thought bubbles

It is just human nature to critique, at least in our own minds, our coworkers’ behavior and productivity on the job. And, of course, we consider ourselves astute observers. No doubt we could fill the thought bubbles above with comments on each and every individual teammate. 

But it is really up to the new team manager to translate opinion and observation into constructive feedback that team members can act upon to improve their performance. 

The skill of giving feedback well is one of the most difficult to apply effectively…especially for new managers who as individual contributors were focused on their own performance, not the performance of others. New manager training gives guidelines for giving effective feedback but there is seldom enough practice time for the new supervisor to feel proficient. A role play is one thing; confronting a team mate with negative feedback is another. And yet, effective performance management is probably one of the most critical of all the skills new managers must acquire.

As a new manager, plan ahead and follow these effective feedback guidelines:

  1. Check your attitude.Your goal should be to truly help the employee perform at a higher level, not place blame or get angry. With this as your motivation, you will set the right tone and lessen the employee’s defensiveness.

  2. Be straightforward and specific.Explain objectively just what the performance issue is and why it concerns you. Here is an example:

    “I noticed you were texting on your phone yesterday at the team meeting. It seemed you were not interested in the discussion and it set a bad example for others.”

  3. Give the employee a chance to respond.Ask if there were any reasons for the behavior and then listen carefully for facts and feelings. The employee may well have a good explanation. Perhaps they were waiting for an important message from their doctor or needed to respond to an urgent message from their child. Once you have the context for the behavior, you can decide how serious the problem is.

  4. Solve the problem together.How can the negative behavior be eliminated or improved? Work as a team to find a solution. Your role as a new manager should be to help the employee understand how their behavior affects others and plan a path forward. Constructive feedback should focus on development and be encouraged by ongoing feedback and performance coaching.

  5. Agree upon next steps and schedule a follow-up meeting.Here is where you need the employee’s commitment to improvement and their ownership of the plan. Get together soon and as often as needed to assess the success of the agreed-upon performance improvement plan. And, if there is little improvement and the behavior is serious, involve HR. They can help lend perspective and ensure the steps to correction are legal and well documented.