Tag Archives: performance feedback

Open Feedback Culture is important- what’s yours like?

When we consider athletes, dancers or other sportspeople today we know that they set goals, they train and they work hard to achieve optimum performance. After they perform, they often critique the performance and receive feedback from others. For instance a baseball pitcher might review video footage, they might seek out feedback from their coach or sports specialists. If they didn’t seek feedback, or weren’t provided with this feedback they would not be able to achieve or maintain the desired performance.


It’s no secret here that the culture at many organisations is one that shy’s away from having tough or difficult conversations with people. This includes peer-to-peer dialogue, upwards and downwards feedback or communication.

The best feedback for learning occurs in the moment, but I think it would be safe to say that many staff aren’t even receiving accurate feedback during appraisal time. It’s much easier for managers to tick the box and write a general comment about an employee than have an honest conversation about someone’s behaviour and performance. Sometimes it’s the threat of a grievance or investigation that put’s managers off.

We know feedback is crucial to improving performance so this is a culture we need to change.

The reason why people get scared and threatened by feedback is often because they aren’t used to receiving it. Often managers tippy toe around what they really need to say, whilst others blurt out loud and clear what’s on their mind in an inappropriate manner. Neither approaches are effective methods of providing feedback to employees, nor will they evoke a change in the individual’s behaviours. Balance is key.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you use the old hamburger approach (or shit sandwich as some people call it!) but it is about delivering a firm message in an appropriate way to other people in the workplace. We talk a lot about communication (yeah yeah we all know the model of giving and receiving a message)- so why don’t we think about this when giving feedback?

Some further thoughts: here’s a three-pronged approach I like (HT Evan Carmichael)

1. From an individual perspective, it is critical that people don’t take feedback personally. Take it as a means of learning.
2. From the team perspective, managers need to provide coaching in the spirit of improving performance, not naming flaws or faults or trying to change what makes someone who he/she is. Use it as a means of instruction.
3. From an organizational perspective, companies need to recognize and reward people who have the courage to remain open to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback. Exploit it as a way to develop talent and manage performance.

What is the feedback like in your workplace and how can we as HR professionals encourage it?


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Filed under Communication, Performance Management

Do you encourage a coaching culture?

Recommended Reads:
Lindbom, D. (2007), ‘A Culture of Coaching: The Challenge of Managing Performance for Long-Term Results’, Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 101.

In recent times there has been much emphasis placed on coaching in the workplace. Lindbom takes this further, arguing that there needs to be a strong organizational culture of coaching in order to fully support managers and provide regular performance feedback to all employees.

Lindbom says that culture is “the entire organization, its values, strategic goals, and the formal and informal systems in place that guide managers and employees in everyday work life”.

Essentially what we are talking about is a culture where people continuously receive and seek out feedback (formal and informal) in order to improve their performance.


So how do you make this happen?

Lindbom’s article places great emphasis on incorporating performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan. This illustrates true top-down commitment and lays the foundation for success in quality people management. Similarly, much of the literature echoes this message insisting that widespread support for performance management from the upper management team is essential (Griffin. 2004) and that gaining consensus and buy-in from senior management early on in the effort can help establish legitimacy and visibility for the process (Fletcher & Williams. 1996).

Additionally, this then has the potential to increase employee commitment to the organization and its goals. Moreover, Ariyachandra & Frolick (2008) go further in articulating the term ‘Business Performance Management’ which facilitates the creation of strategic goals and supports the subsequent management of the performance to those goals. This concept highlights the need for performance management to be strongly interlinked with specific strategic objectives and key performance indicators or core competencies that are meaningful to the organization.

Finally, Lindbom highlights the importance of formal systems and informal networks in effective performance management and also the need to provide managers with the right tools, training and support to effectively coach and improve performance. With these components in place, in addition to the incorporation of performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan, Lindbom argues that a strong organizational culture of coaching will be established resulting in supported managers and employees regularly receiving feed back on performance.

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Filed under Performance Management, Recommended Readings

Afraid of giving performance feedback?

Recommended Reads:
Steelman, L.A., and Rutkowski, K.A., (2004), ‘Moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 6-18.

Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) paper provides a valuable contribution to the area of performance feedback as it examines moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback. This is an important area to explore, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Concepts such as the “halo effect” where a manager rates the individual highly because of a one-off high performance which masks mediocre performance over the rest of the appraisal period and the “Mum effect” where managers withhold negative or undesirable information significantly impede learning and development for the individual, which can then cost the company considerably in terms of desired results linking to the strategic objectives.


Moreover, this has the potential to impact upon employee’s self-perception and how they receive future feedback about their performance. This is because unless they receive accurate feedback on their performance in real-time they will keep making inferences and assumptions about how they are performing and are often met with disappointment and frustration when they discover their perception is not aligned with their managers. Importantly, Clampitt (2005) notes that a manager “cannot not give performance feedback” because if the manager doesn’t give explicit feedback, they will infer it, and continue to perform at standards they deem acceptable to themselves. Hence illustrating why open communication and regular feedback is so important and obstructions to learning and development such as the ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’ effect need to be avoided at all costs.

Subsequently, the results from Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) survey which surveyed a total of 405 staff across two manufacturing companies indicated that favourable characteristics can in fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback. For instance, it found that employees are the most motivated to make changes to their performance when negative feedback is delivered from a source they consider to be credible and of a high quality. It is additionally important that the feedback is delivered in a considerate, meaningful manner which includes providing factual information and taking the time to work with the individual to set goals in order to improve future performance.

Hence these findings are important to consider when delivering feedback in the working environment. It is crucial to be aware of various effects such as ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Moreover, by changing the way in which performance feedback is delivered, it is possible to fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback with favourable characteristics.

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Filed under Performance Management, Recommended Readings