Good leaders help their employees grow and improve.

An important part of this process is performance feedback, but it’s easy for leaders to make mistakes when reviewing employees. Leaders who want to improve in this area need to learn more about what works and change their behavior where needed.

Here on my blog, I already gave some common mistakes. The following are more things NOT to do.

Mistakes leaders make concerning employee feedback

1. DON’T use an overly formal or forced opening. The employee will appreciate a more low-key approach and it will lessen tension. A serious, all business approach is necessary for very serious matters, but can trigger defensiveness otherwise.

2. DON’T give non-specific feedback. If people don’t understand exactly what they are doing wrong, or what it is that they need to change, they probably won’t improve. Leaders need to suggest actions employees can take. Vague advice won’t be helpful. People need examples; phrases like “be more of a team player” or “be more professional” mean nothing to employees. Also, according to the Human Nature Network, giving positive feedback with specifics is “especially counterproductive for people with personality styles that value data, precision, and detail,” because when they hear undefined praise, they question the praiser’s sincerity.

3. DON’T give feedback based on assumptions or hearsay. Employees will lose respect for you as a leader, if you criticize them for something they didn’t do or something you didn’t observe in person.

4. DON’T wing it. Don’t assess employees without first getting all the facts you can, thinking through what you are going to say, and examining the situation. Make sure you organize your material and you are prepared.

5. DON’T argue. Entering into debate with the employee will sidetrack the conversation. As Psychology Today says, “the thing to do here is to talk about the divergent views and attempt to close the gap, calmly.”

6. DON’T let your emotions take over. Remain positive, honest and unemotional, even if the employee reacts strongly. When this happens, it’s difficult to get the employee to listen to you and really hear what you are saying.

7. DON’T back down. If employees get upset, don’t argue with them, but also don’t stop talking about the situation. The Human Nature Network says that taking a time out is a good idea if the situation gets out of hand.

8. DON’T have a patronizing attitude. Leaders who come across as if they know what is best for the employee without asking for the employee’s perspective will be tuned out ans often dismissed by the employee. Or employees might feel resentful and do the opposite of what is suggested for them.

9. DON’T talk for an overly long time before giving negative feedback. Doing this only builds suspense and causes the employee to tune out, because they know the negative feedback is coming. Don’t say, “you are good at this, this and this BUT…”.

10. DON’T forget to talk about the employee’s career ambitions. Help your employees think about what they want to do and where they want to go in their career. 

11. DON’T forget to anticipate responses to your evaluation. Think through how you think an employee might respond, so that you can plan out your own responses.

12. DON’T talk about compensation during the review. The Harvard Business Review says that if you must talk about compensation, do it at the start of the conversation. But in my experience, salary reviews need to be an entirely different conversation for feedback to be effective.

13. DON’T go forward without an action plan without getting agreement about the problem. Unless the employee understands what the issue is, why they need to change, and what they need to change, they won’t be interested in following your plan.

14. DON’T neglect to follow-up. If you don’t check-in with employees about their goals, they may neglect to follow your advice.

Leaders, what “don’ts” are you resolved to fix so you can improve the results of your feedback to others? What don’ts can you add to the list?

Photo Credit: Flickr user Lara604