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.