ONE of the most important skills in a manager’s repertoire is the ability to communicate what he thinks of his staff’s performance, be it positive or negative.

However, the lack of specific and regular feedback is one of the most common factors of poor performance and low morale.

Not only does providing feedback lead to better performance, it also greatly enhances the level of employee engagement and trust. Giving specific feedback is a great way for that to happen.

But without proper training and practice, giving direct feedback is a challenge, even for managers. By learning the fundamentals of giving feedback — from how and when to provide it — managers will discover that feedback can essentially be used to enhance, encourage and inspire loyalty and trust.

Receiving staff feedback

How should you as a manager feel about receiving feedback from your staff? Even if it is not always easy to hear, see it as a positive thing — what you learn will help you do a better job.

Taking feedback from your staff will command their respect, and will encourage other supervisors to follow suit. Asking for feedback also decreases the interpersonal barriers between manager and staff.

Ideally, as a manager, you should both give feedback and receive it.

For behaviours you want repeated, offer supportive feedback where you describe the specific behaviour, followed by the consequences of the behaviour and how you as the manager feel about it. Explain to the staff why you feel that way as well.

Supportive feedback has a healing effect and it can help your staff overcome obstacles in their lives. The average person is motivated by positive feedback to do better, as humans are naturally wired to respond to praise and affirmation.

In situations where a team member’s behaviour needs to change, the manager has to offer corrective feedback. In most cases, this involves telling and selling, and if all else fails, managers sometimes resort to using threats, which may not get the desired outcome.

As changing negative behaviour is almost always a process, you can use the BEER method to give the right feedback to your team member. The steps include:

Behaviour. Highlight to your staff the specific undesirable behaviours you have observed. Be clear about what you find unacceptable.

Providing explicit details of a problem or situation (dates, places, numbers) will avoid giving the impression of a personal attack. Stay away from sweeping generalisations about the person’s character or personality.

Make it clear that this is an issue about performance. For example: “I am disappointed that the report did not meet the given specifications requested by the client.”

Effects. Point out the effects or consequences of the staff’s behaviour on the team and the organisation by saying: “Are you aware that this will affect our company’s credibility from the client’s perspective?”

Relate the impact of the behaviour to the larger goals and standards of your company, and be sure that your staff member understands the connection. Highlight to him that you are treating him as an essential member and participant of the company and its future.

Expectations. Explain the desired behaviour or expectations to your team member. Involve him in the plan for changing his behaviour, based on a joint discussion.

Any action plans or solutions for achieving the desired change should be seen as a joint venture. This is key to ensure that there is buy-in from the staff member to work towards the change needed.

Develop a contract or plan and agree on the terms and a date by which the provisions of the plan will be fulfilled. Check that he understands and agrees to the plan by asking, “Do we agree on X?”

Results. Describe the outcomes if the staff member does not meet the expectations agreed upon. For example, if he continues with the behaviour in question, the end result will be disciplinary action, demotion and so on.

For corrective feedback, stress the main things you have discussed that the person could do differently. End on a positive note by communicating confidence in the person’s ability to improve the situation.

By understanding how to give feedback and providing the right balance of supportive and corrective action, managers can create a more positive, productive and dynamic culture that will serve everyone well.

Article by Dinah Leong, senior consultant of Training Edge International. For more information, e-mail her at or visit