How to Give Honest Feedback to Employees

Wendy Hauser, DVM, assistant vice president of veterinary relations for Crum + Forster Pet Insurance Group, gives some advice on the importance of providing employees with feedback.
Published: June 22, 2018

Wendy Hauser, DVM, assistant vice president of veterinary relations for Crum + Forster Pet Insurance Group, gives some advice on the importance of providing employees with feedback.

"How do you give feedback in your hospital? What does that look like in your hospital? A recent Harris poll online of 2,058 U.S. adults, 616 of them that identified as managers, stated that two-thirds of them were uncomfortable having a conversation about an employee's performance, and that one-third would avoid the conversation if they thought that the person would react negatively. The paradox here is that people thrive on feedback. When we deny our employees feedback, we create disconnection and dysfunction within our teams. 

Turns out there are some really good ways to give feedback - and honest feedback - to your employees. The first is that you want to be direct but kind, and what I mean is that you should paint a picture of the desired behaviors you want to see that employee embrace. The second thing that's really important is to be present in the conversation. Choose to have these conversations at times that you know that you have enough time, that you won't be distracted, that you can give your employees your undivided attention. It's also important to finish clearly with your expectations and hopes for that employee. And finally, to make sure that you touch bases after the feedback. There's a thing called imagined distance, and imagined distance is where because two people have had an uncomfortable conversation, if you don't make a point to reconnect with them they can feel that maybe you're still disappointed or angry with them as that leader or the person who initiated the conversation. So, make sure that you are present, that you finish clearly and that you make a point to follow up with the person with whom you're having the feedback conversation. 

It's also very important to listen in feedback conversations. You want to create a safe space where both parties can have a contributory dialogue. And what I mean by that is that feedback
conversations should spark learning on both sides, because you can't solve a problem unless you both work to find a resolution on that problem, or on that behavior. 

Finally, inspire greatness. Make sure that your employee knows that the reason you're having this conversation is not because you don't believe in them, but because you know that they are capable of great things. So, paint that picture for them as far as what that great thing would look like, and let them know that you're going to be their partner in helping them achieve those goals."

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