Walter wasn’t a great player but he was an outstanding manager 

These days everyone wants a good review. Tell us how well we have done. But if the feedback is less than glowing it may get an angry and hurt response. This is why cautious managers so often play safe with their feedback. To the detriment of employee development. 

” At some stage in your career you’ve got to face up to the fact of how good you are , and let’s face it Walter you’re shit. But I think you’ve got a real talent as a coach, so would you be my coach?” Jim McLean to Walter Smith (two famous football managers) 

If only most managers felt able to be so direct with their feedback and career advice but then ( Scottish) football managers have a tradition of being opinionated, abrasive and critical of those less able and committed than themselves.


 According to a survey 80% of employees feel their line manager doesn’t give them enough feedback. I think we can safely say that what most employees are saying is that they don’t get enough useful feedback. I would speculate on the bases of my experience in mentoring and coaching that one reason for this is that managers are apprehensive even scared to give critical feedback. 

Managers provide bland and therefore not very helpful but safe feedback because they are worried that they will be challenged , accused of being unfair , unsupportive , overly critical, negative , demanding, disparaging with ridiculously high expectations. Employees have been known to complain to HR that they feel bullied because their manager is frequently critical of their work. 

They are concerned that critical feedback will get  an angry and hurt response. That the individual will react badly to the criticism. There is a view amongst managers that people only want positive feedback, to be told what a great job they are doing  or what a good interview they gave( just another candidate had more experience). Better to have someone feel their feedback was ,” unhelpful” than have them takeout a formal grievance against you. 


If feedback is to be useful for the individuals development it must be honest, frank, and specific, backed up with examples. If the feedback is following a job interview say which questions the panel thought could have been answered better and what the panel would have considered a good answer. If the criticism is about standard of work give examples, frequently missed deadlines, careless errors meaning reports had to be double checked. If it’s about behaviour and attitude give examples,  an abrupt telephone manor off putting to clients, an unwillingness to help out colleagues when they’re under pressure. 


You don’t need to be as abrasive as a Scottish football manager to give helpful feedback. 


Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger 


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