The Worst Way to Give Performance Feedback

performance feedback I was talking with a client last week who was absolutely fuming about the way her manager had given some performance feedback to her and her colleagues. In short, the manager had called together everyone who worked for her and told them that they needed to ‘get to grips with the new XY system and make it work’ (or words to that effect). The problem for my client was that she knew that of her ten colleagues only two of them weren’t using the new XY system effectively – everyone else had well and truly ‘got to grips’ with it and were using it to great effect

Result? Eight very disgruntled employees

So what’s happened here?

The ‘scattergun’ approach to performance feedback

This manager had adopted what I call the ‘scattergun’ approach. Basically this means you deliver a piece of performance feedback to the whole group / team hoping that the feedback ‘hits’ the people who need to hear it. This feedback might be negative (as in my clients example) or positive (as in ‘good work team – keep it up’). In my experience this type of performance feedback rarely works well.

Firstly, nobody likes being accused of a crime they haven’t committed (surprising eh?).  Secondly, even if the performance feedback is positive, nobody likes seeing people get credit where it’s not deserved. Have you ever had the experience of your manager praising your whole team when you know for a fact that Eric and Jay have contributed virtually zilch to the project? How did that work for you?   

So, why would a manager ever use the scatter gun approach? Here’s what I see;

1.       They don’t have the facts

Sometimes managers give scatter gun performance feedback because they don’t have the facts at hand to enable them to identify who it is, specifically, who needs the feedback. So they know that there’s a problem with the XY project but they don’t know who specifically is causing the problem. Or they know that Client A is delighted with the service they are getting, but they don’t know who is doing what to delight Client A. So in the absence of facts they scatter gun the feedback

2.       They don’t know how to talk to give ‘one to one’ performance feedback

Sometimes managers just don’t feel confident having a conversation ‘one to one’ with an employee – especially when that conversation includes giving criticism. They find it easier to give some (usually vague) criticism to the whole team, hoping that the people who really need to hear it will think ‘Gosh, I think he means me. I’d better improve this’  The unfortunate truth is that the people who do need to hear the feedback rarely do hear it (which is often why they are under performing in the first place!) and the rest of the team are left  seething with resentment

(Read more on how to give constructive criticism in ‘How to Give Positive Criticism – using A>R>C>)  

3.       There’s a crisis

There are times when a problem comes to light that needs to be resolved immediately. In these circumstances a manager may need to highlight the problem before they have time to collect the facts (and work out, specifically, who needs the performance feedback). What’s important here (as ever) is clarity. So the manager needs to say something on the lines of ‘A problem has arisen with Client C that we need to resolve immediately. I’m not entirely clear at this stage what’s happened and who I need to discuss this issue with in detail but after we have resolved the problem I will come back to doing that’

So what is the secret of effective performance feedback?

For performance feedback to be effective it needs to be:

·         Factual – based on clear, objective ‘evidence’

·         Delivered to the right person (!) as close to the ‘event’ as possible

·         Explained in a way the employee finds easy to understand and easy to accept – using my Action>Result>Consequence model helps enormously

·         Without the scattergun!



Do you want to read more about giving performance feedback?

constructive criticismWhy not take a look at my e-book ‘Motivating Your Staff to Improve Their Performance with Positive Criticism’ – a step-by-step guide for giving criticism in a way that your staff member finds easy to understand and easy to accept and that motivates them to make a change that improves their performance. More details HERE






2 Responses to The Worst Way to Give Performance Feedback

  1. […] who need to hear it. It’s a technique that rarely works well, if ever   (Read more at The Worst Way to Give Performance Feedback)       […]

  2. […] who need to hear it (and only the individuals who need to hear it!)     (Read more at ‘The Worst Way to Give Performance Feedback’) […]

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