“I’d tell you if you were doing something wrong”

All to often the first time the boss says how much they value your contribution and appreciate your commitment is at your leaving do! This seems consistent with a resent survey which found 80% of employees felt their manager did not give enough feedback. HR are familiar with the scenario where a manager wishes to terminate an employees employment due to an unsatisfactory probationary period but on questioning has failed to provide the individual with regular feedback. As a mentor I am aware of the frustration of unsuccessful candidates at the lack of useful feedback from interviewers. Why are managers so reluctant to provide feedback? 


I suppose once a year is better than not at all but most employees want more frequent feedback than their annual appraisal. In any case employees often report annual appraisals as rather formal, a bureaucratic requirement rather than a positive experience. They’re not very popular with managers either especially if linked to bonuses which focus on individual performance rather than recognising the importance of team work. To be useful feedback needs to be frequent not an unusual occurrence and either a “well done/thanks “ or an explanation of what needs improving and how. 


Do managers think if they praise an individual it will have a negative effect, that they will become complacent and will no longer try so hard? Are they worried praise for the work of one individual will upset other members of the team? Are they afraid to be too critical incase they are accused of harassment or bullying? Clearly there is a skill in giving feedback and like most skills it improves with practice and experience.


However failure to tackle poor performance is a serious weakness in a manager. A probationary period for new starters is a good safety net for an organisation and should allow a little risk taking in appointments but only if the manager uses the probationary period properly. This means support and guidance plus feedback at regular intervals , every 3 or 4 weeks , more frequently if there are concerns. Waiting to the week before the probationary period ends to tell the individual their performance has not been good enough is bad management and unfair. After all they could understandable be genuinely surprised if this is the first they have heard that they have not come up to standard.


The other area of feedback which is to often poorly delivered or not provided unless requested is following a job interview. I am an experienced interviewer and I think it is only good manners to contact each interviewee by phone to let them know the outcome of their interview and offer feedback. So often organisation reserve the personal touch for the successful candidate. I worked as a senior manager for some very large organisations and I interviewed some very good candidates who didn’t get the job but who as a result of a positive experience with feedback remained keen to work in the organisation and applied again when a suitable vacancy occurred. 


Perhaps because of my own experience of being interviewed and receiving bland and unhelpful feedback, I have always gone to the other extreme. I tell the unsuccessful candidate which questions they answered well and which they were weak on. I then tell them the answers the panel were looking for. I also give them feedback on there style such as a need to keep answers short and to the point as this makes it easier for the panel to assess their performance. Likewise it goes against a candidate if the panel have to ask a lot of supplementary questions to tease out experience and knowledge. Detailed feedback like this is usually welcomed by candidates but not always. That’s the trouble with feedback you don’t always hear what you want to hear. 

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Luke Skelton 1 Year Ago

Fantastic piece and very true to home. Very apt. Where I work there is a high turnover of staff and I cant help but think that some good man management would help retention incredibly however it appears in some cases that managers roles are simply operational in process rather than focused within the team.

David Walker 1 Year Ago

Managers have to balance getting the immediate task completed, nurturing individual workers’ personal development and keeping the team together as an effective functioning unit.