Leadership / 10.19.22
10 Tips for Delivering Constructive Employee Feedback
There are many reasons why you may need to deliver constructive feedback to an employee in your ticket office or entertainment organization. It is not always easy to have these conversations. But, in many cases, they can help improve individual performance, create better team dynamics, and support workers to eventually take on more advanced roles.
“Giving feedback is an act of compassion,” Kay Burnham, who founded Perceiving Possibilities after spending 30 years working on the administrative side of the entertainment industry, says. “You want to make it clear that you want [your employees] to be successful.”
Rebecca Throne of See Tickets agrees. “Giving honest critical feedback is a huge act of service, even though it is awkward and difficult.” Throne adds that honest feedback about performance and areas where an employee needs to develop is critical for growth, improvement and happiness.
On a recent INTIX Wednesday Wisdom call, the community discussed a particular employee feedback situation that brought forward many helpful tips. These 10 tips can help you transcend the routine responsibility of providing feedback to elevate your team and their performance.
- Prepare your employee for the discussion. Do not invite someone to a meeting and then launch into unexpected constructive feedback. It will take your employees by surprise and potentially create a situation where they become reactive or combative.
Instead, suggests Throne, set expectations by saying, “‘I know this is going to be difficult, but I need to give you some feedback.’ [That way,] they don’t walk into the meeting and feel blindsided. It helps them to emotionally prepare. It is going to be awkward and difficult … they might need to go away and process, then come back to you after the fact when they are not feeling reactive and in the moment.”
- Be prepared for the conversation. It is important that employees can see you have given careful thought to both individual matters and the meeting itself. Consider developing an outline of what you want to discuss and how you want to see an employee improve. Writing out a script can also be helpful.
“Come from a place of compassion and carefully choose your words,” Burnham says. “Do not go into the conversation cold or on the fly. Take some time to practice what you want to say. Find someone to help you practice it. This will help you feel confident going in so that you can support [an employee] and their success.”
- Engage in a dialogue. Use clear language that is tactful yet direct. At the same time, show that you are there to support the employee’s long-term success. Keep an open mind, then give them a chance to respond, ask questions and actively participate in the process.
“Difficult feedback is exactly that, it is difficult, and it is difficult for both of you,” Burnham says. “If you go into the conversation with the intention that you want this person to be as successful as possible and that is what you are looking for … that intention can help you frame what you are talking about and pick the right words.”
Burnham continues, “You may also discover something that you do not know about them or the situation or their feelings. [You may learn more] about their confidence in knowing how to do the job correctly, which you can correct, and they can become successful.”
An open dialogue may also show you that it was legitimately difficult for an employee to give their best performance. As well, you may learn about a systemic issue that could be improved for the good of that individual and your entire team.
- Make sure your employee is okay. We all have things going on in our lives and some of them may not be public knowledge in the workplace. Be compassionate and kind. Remember that people go through difficult times. Ask your employees if they are OK.
- If an employee needs help, offer any available resources. This may include printed materials or links to online documentation. Alternatively, you may have an employee assistance program or care support system for your employees and student workers.
Mental health first aid is also available specifically for the entertainment industry. It can be helpful in talking about and dealing with mental health issues in the workplace.
- Offer time off when it is needed. Sometimes people need a break, especially if they are going through a challenging time in their personal life. If you learn that an employee is experiencing a hardship, health issue or something else that is impacting their performance, encourage them to take some time. If paid time off is an option, be sure to mention that to help reduce stress during an already stressful time.
- Keep the employee’s best interests at heart. If an employee is not a good fit for their current position, explore their interests and skills to see if there might be a different opportunity where you can leverage their talents.
You may say, notes Aren Murray of Tixly, “I am seeing these actions and behaviors, and I am interpreting them as you being unhappy in what your tasks are … Let’s discuss what you can do instead.”
- Use the opportunity to educate. We are all lifelong learners, regardless of our position within an organization.
“If the employee is a student, it is an educational situation,” Christy Grantham of the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College says, adding that it can be helpful for student workers to learn about their strengths and recognize where they fit best.
Employees may also be challenged when implementing policies and enforcing rules. It is important to instill within your employees that rules are a guide. There is some room to give. Empower them to provide service at the highest level and teach them that every rule can be bent.
“Sometimes people cling to the rules because they do not have the confidence to pivot,” Cate Foltin of the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts says.
Ultimately, staff needs to be encouraged to make decisions that take care of customers. This is something that can be reinforced during employee feedback sessions.
- Leave the door open for future conversations. Providing employee feedback is not a “one-and-done” situation. Consider scheduling a follow-up meeting but be sure to leave enough time for your employee to act on your feedback. It may take a few weeks or longer for them to incorporate your guidance into their work. Remember, you want them to succeed. It is crucial to both say and show this as you go through the process.
- Help employees move on when the time is right. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to improve a situation. After giving it your all, you may need to frame the conversation to help an employee move on to another assignment. This may be somewhere else within your organization, or it may be at another organization altogether.
“I had someone who was rules-driven [and it was not a great fit],” Foltin says. “We transferred her to another area where she is now excelling.”
“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses,” Maureen Andersen, CEO of INTIX, says. “It is not a failure if you do not like customers and people. You have to find what it is that you do feel comfortable doing. Customer service is a very difficult proposition a lot of the time. You can embrace it or hate it.”
“Not everyone is good at every job they try to do,” Burnham says. “Helping someone move on to where they can more successful is hard. It is one of the worst things I have ever had to do in my career, but when you see them go on and be successful, even if you do not get to actually see it, it removes some of the sting. You have to know you are coming from a place of compassion in your heart.”
Ultimately, Murray says, “If someone is unhappy in what they are doing, if it is pervasive, it is good for them to be happy somewhere else instead of continuing to be unhappy.”
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Tags: Leadership , Workplace