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Cartoon Coffee Break: Give the gift of feedback. It's free!

Cornerstone Editors

‘Tis the season for giving: In the workplace, the act of giving feedback can be one of the most powerful gifts for employees looking to grow and develop.

However, it all depends on how you package the feedback. When delivered the wrong way, even the right advice can feel less like a gift to the recipient and more like getting a big lump of coal.

The act of giving feedback is just as important as the recommendation itself.

Only 26% of employees say the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Yet, when done well, constructive feedback is one of the most reliable tools an organization uses to help employees grow and develop their skills and feel their workplace invests in them.

By harnessing the gift of giving good feedback, leaders can build trust across work relationships, improve employee engagement and ultimately, help their teams develop crucial skills to improve performance and grow their careers.

Cartoon by Terry LaBan, cartoonist and illustrator.

Understand how and when to give positive and constructive feedback


Feedback has a direct impact on employee engagement and performance. That’s why it’s so important to understand how and when to give different types of feedback.

Best practices recommend using a 6:1 ratio of positive to constructive feedback, which means employees ideally need six positive pieces of feedback for every constructive review received. Recognize good work with appreciation, share multiple positive feedback notes, and offer rewards to build credibility.

And it will be needed. In fact, employees learn the most from constructive feedback, but only when they’re receptive to the critique and trusting the process.

To do that and make constructive feedback meaningful, leaders must be specific about the issue, invite the employee’s input, focus on desired behavior instead of the negative one and outline the benefits of making change.

For more tips on how leaders can deliver the right feedback to acknowledge good work and help them improve certain skills, download our guide.

Take the fear out of feedback


Whether you’re the giver or the recipient, feedback can be scary.

The first step in taking the fear out of feedback is to lower the tension by establishing rapport and trust in the conversation. Whether a comment is positive or constructive, leaders should take a moment to set the stage for the discussion and demonstrate their investment in their employees’ goals and growth.

Also, it’s important to understand the role that recognition plays in giving feedback.

Acknowledging what employees are doing well and telling them how they’re valued can also help managers broach the conversation of improvement areas while showing you have their best interest and career growth at heart.

Feedback is key to developing a real action plan to help employees grow. Building credibility and trust with employees makes it easier to guide employees to the right learning channels for improvement and take their careers in the direction they want.

Set actionable steps, together


The act of giving feedback doesn’t end with the delivery. It’s only the beginning.

Rather than punctuate a development conversation by saying, “Here’s what you did, and here’s what I want you to do,” discuss what they could do differently moving forward and then set clear action steps. While the feedback might come from managers, figuring out the solution should be a team effort.

When leaders co-construct goals this way, they’ll, in turn, receive mutual buy-in from the person receiving feedback.

Once the employee has made those changes, it’s important to recognize and celebrate them to create that positive feedback loop and build further trust.

Feedback is a valuable gift and one that can improve not only employees’ performance but also their satisfaction, engagement and retention.

By understanding when to give feedback, how to reduce tension in the process and the ways to set achievable goals together, leaders can deliver impactful feedback and make it the gift it should be. By doing so, employees might even reciprocate with a gift of their own: seeking leaders’ advice and wisdom even before they offer it.

From all of us at Cornerstone, have a safe and happy holidays!

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