Focusing on the Objectivity of Feedback

Focusing on the Objectivity of Feedback

Focusing on the Objectivity of Feedback


The best “company feedback” is also the most honest and authentic way to take accountability for and make changes to improve performance. When managers actually get feedback about their performance, it’s easy to know if the company is doing well.

But when managers give feedback that only jogs tired minds (“How are you doing?”) it may paint a very misleading picture of what’s actually working. For example, employees have a hard time judging whether a new employee has come on strong in a project because she’s hearing praise from her manager.

To help managers give effective feedback, corporate psychologists at PIA, a firm that advises clients on employee training and performance improvement, have set up a webinar series to clear up misunderstandings.

Self-control required

The PIA study involved 20 psychologists across 12 companies. In a study of 280 office employees, PIA found that 33 percent of employees only heard positive feedback about their performance. Only 10 percent of employees received only negative feedback.

Being an effective manager requires self-control.

First, make sure to create a shared goal between your employees and yourself.

Second, be transparent about what you expect your employees to do. A harsh “no, you missed that” isn’t very effective feedback. If your expectations are vague, your employees will simply default to keeping their heads down or simply giving up. Give them a set of goals and be honest with them so they know the extent of your expectations.

Another helpful idea is to ask employees questions designed to elicit accurate answers about their performance on the job. This makes it more likely that employees will accurately report their progress.

PIA psychologist Connie Staib offered one example: “For example, maybe your most recent project was to reorganize a group of management people’s desks and decide whether they will stay or go. Are they staying? Did you have to work on the new details and tools to make the layout work? How was it and how did it compare to your previous department redesigns?”

These questions are critical for everyone who is reviewing performance. Companies invest a lot of money in training, and employees have invested their own time to get better. As Staib explains, “People trust, or don’t trust, you, and they’re doing the hard work you asked them to do.”

Check, rinse, repeat

PIA psychologist Paul Hahn explains that managers must ask the same type of question, but this time with a new set of goals.

Repeat these questions over and over until you get a better idea of how your employees feel about their performance and if there’s anything that needs to be changed. The effective feedback you give might change over time, or it might simply keep evolving as you get better at it.

After conducting the analysis, Staib developed a simple, five-step process for assessing your own effectiveness as a manager. Click here to learn more.

Photo Credit: PIA

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