Performance Feedback: ‘What if I don’t have any to give?’

performance feedback

I think most of us would agree that giving effective performance feedback is one of the most important management skills. Why? Simply because feedback on performance not only improves employee performance and productivity but also employee engagement and job satisfaction.  You’ll not be surprised then, given its importance, that I’ve written a lot about performance feedback! (For example in my blogs ‘Giving Artful Performance Feedback’ and ‘Performance Feedback: What’s Stopping You?’)

In this blog I’m going to address a specific – and very valid – question that managers sometimes ask me:

What if I don’t have any performance feedback to give?

Many managers only give regular performance feedback to employees when they have performed either exceptionally well or exceptionally badly. This makes some sense because, of course, when we want to give some praise for high performance we need to give that as close to the event as possible (because it makes more impact) and when we need to give some constructive criticism we need to give that quickly in order to prevent the performance problem from escalating

But what about the employees who perform consistently to the standards required – without being exceptionally ‘good’ or exceptionally ‘poor’?

Are these employees missing out because we don’t have the type of feedback to hand that comes from exceptionally high performance or exceptionally poor performance (e.g. some brilliant client feedback or an example of work that’s caused a major problem)?

In short, are we failing to give regular feedback on their performance to our ‘Steady Eddies’?

To ensure that all your employees get the regular performance feedback they want and need, you could consider systemising your performance feedback process. Here’s how:

Performance Feedback System Step One: Collecting Evidence

The first step is to take a planned approach to collecting samples and examples of your employee’s work. These samples and examples are the ‘evidence’ of performance you will then use to give, on an ongoing basis, feedback that is factual and objective. If you have agreed performance objectives or standards with your employees then you simply need to decide;

  • HOW to monitor performance against the objectives in order to collect the evidence (see examples of monitoring methods here)
  • WHEN you will monitor actual performance against the objectives (you can see a sample monitoring plan here)

If you don’t have agreed performance objectives or standards then you could simply:

  • Open a performance file for each of your employees and then get into the habit of
  • Grabbing examples of your employees work; good reports, examples of work, written feedback etc.
  • Jotting down your observations of the employees performance – examples of how they work with clients, work with the team etc
  • Just open the file and stick it in!

Performance Feedback System Step Two: Plan in Time to Give the Feedback

In the same way we need to get into the habit of collecting evidence we also need to get into the habit of taking that evidence and using it to give feedback.  I’m not necessarily talking here about a full blown performance review or appraisal meeting but about planning into your diary regular, short meetings where you give your employees some focused performance feedback

Performance Feedback Summary

It’s a challenge, I know, to find the time to give performance feedback to our employees on an ongoing basis. Having simple systems or ‘good habits’ in place make giving that feedback that much easier


management trainingJoan Henshaw is the author of the ’10 Minute Management’ series of books and videos. Read about these practical, step-by-step guides HERE and videos HERE

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