A Year Without Feedback?

Sometimes employees honestly feel that they have not received any feedback from their supervisor throughout an entire year (or more). Of course, they find this to be very frustrating.

I have not had a supervisor admit to me that he/she has gone an entire year without giving an employee feedback, but I have had many supervisors admit that they are not as good at giving feedback as they need to be. I don’t know what reasons a supervisor might give for letting an entire year pass without giving an employee any feedback, but I suspect that one reason might be because they don’t feel like there is any “criticism” to offer.

However, that supervisor may be looking at coaching as being only related to what I call the “difficulties” type of coaching. This type of coaching is needed when there is a gap between what is expected and the employee’s performance, but if the employee is not having any difficulties in their performance, does that really mean that he/she needs no coaching? I don’t think so.

In fact, “difficulties” coaching is just one of at least three different types of coaching. Two other types of coaching are: debriefing and development. The supervisor that goes an entire year without giving his/her direct report any feedback is possibly ignoring these other two types of coaching.

For example, even the employees who are performing their assigned tasks adequately could benefit from the supervisor debriefing situations with them. It may not be possible to do this after every event, but just doing it on a regular basis could pay huge dividends in helping good employees perform even better. Debriefing doesn’t have to be centered on criticism. Debriefing is centered on examination. Good coaches can lead employees to examine their performances through asking some strategic questions.  These might include:

  • Who were the stakeholders that you didn’t give as much consideration to?
  • Who were the stakeholders that you gave more consideration to?
  • What outcomes were you anticipating?
  • What surprises did you encounter?
  • What would you do differently if you could do it again?
  • What was successful about this event that you can apply to future situations?

Leading an employee to debrief events with strategic questions like these helps him/her to develop the practice of self-reflection even when the supervisor doesn’t do it with him/her. If you can lead an employee to reflect on both successes and failures, they will not only do their current jobs more effectively, you will be laying the foundation for them to become proficient at new things, too.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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