Preface:  Workplace Undercover is a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant. This scenario was written by Carole Marmell. Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts responds. This is the third of a three-part segment.

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Part III – Support for Bank’s Feedback System

In Part I of this Workplace UnderCover scenario, Molly, a bank employee, received harsh criticism instead of the supportive feedback she had expected during her yearly performance appraisal.   In Part II, Jennifer Joyce, a leadership development coach and consultant, described three steps that Molly might take.  In this segment, Jennifer discusses the bank’s role in supporting Molly and her supervisor in giving and receiving more effective feedback.

Jennifer Joyce continues:

As noted at the very beginning of the case study, there is room for Molly’s supervisor and the bank administration to do a better job of providing quality feedback. There are two steps I would recommend they take:

1)   Ensure regular and timely feedback

2)  Provide training on effective feedback

Ensure Regular and Timely Feedback

The bank’s policy of providing formal performance appraisals after every project as well as yearly appraisals is a great start. When an organization waits until the end of the year to provide evaluation information, they run the risk of losing out on better performance for the entire year. What’s more, the employees stay in the dark for long periods of time without really knowing how they are doing.

The policy of including more people in the appraisal of any one person is also positive in that it promotes more objective opinions than one person can provide.

However, there appears to be an effectiveness gap in the feedback that Molly received from her previous and her current supervisor. That is evidenced by the shock Molly experienced when she received critical feedback from her new supervisor. It’s also curious that Molly feels that the new supervisor is a better communicator than her previous supervisor.

If I were consulting for the bank, I would want to explore what is behind those two concerns. Was the previous supervisor holding the formal appraisal sessions as policy states? How do they know? Is it documented?

Effective Feedback

If the appraisals were regularly held, the next area to explore is the quality of the feedback. The issues listed in the first paragraph suggest that the bank managers and staff don’t have the necessary skill to do a good job in providing meaningful feedback.

If the skill gap proves to be fairly universal for the staff, I would recommend training on how to provide effective feedback in performance evaluations and how to receive feedback for the most positive results.

There are many good points from Chapter 4 in Reframing Change that would be part of that workshop. They include providing feedback that:

  • Is strength-based and future-focused as opposed to a discussion only about deficits.
  • Allows the other person to feel inspired to make changes rather than beaten down.
  • Moves away from assumptions and toward understanding by “being in the question” as opposed to “being in the answer.”
  • Explains the importance of giving specific and objective feedback as opposed to generalized subjective feedback such as Molly received.
  • Teaches skills to have a performance appraisal discussion rather than a one-way communication

Summary

Having the skill to provide truly useful feedback that builds relationships and inspires positive change takes focus and practice. In my experience, it is the most powerful tool an organization has. Frequent quality feedback ensures a culture that recognizes and fixes problems quickly, keeps employees free from the tension of repressed feelings, and keeps communication flowing.

In my work as a leadership consultant, I often think to myself, “If I can just get these folks to talk to each other, my work here is done.”

References:  Reframing Change, Building Effective Relationships, Chapter 4

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Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts.com, is a leadership development consultant and coach.  She specializes in diversity, continuous quality Improvement, team effectiveness, change leadership, strategic planning, meeting design and facilitation, leadership development and executive coaching.  For more information, see www.leadershipsmarts.com

Carole Marmell, LMSW-IPR, C-SWHC, is a hospice social worker.

Filed under: building effective relationshipshealthy organizationsmaking positive changesstrength-basedworkplace dynamics

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