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Each year most of us will get that dreadful invitation to the superior’s office for a yearly evaluation. Evaluations are not always positive and may have negative connotations that may affect the emotional, personal state and even the performance of an employee. The interpretation of an evaluation can change a behavior depending on how the feedback is presented to the subordinate by the employer and how motivated the subordinate becomes after receiving a negative feedback. To begin this subject, there are different ways as to how the feedback may be presented, either in a formal way or informal, as a way of mentoring or coaching. For the purpose of this discussion, I’ll compare and contrast the different types of feedback and will use my professional experience to elaborate on this topic.
In the professional life, we often wonder how we’re doing as employees and are subconsciously seeking superior’s approval or any signs of disapproval to see how we are performing or if we meet the organizational standards. As one of the ways of such communication, we find feedback to be a resourceful tool that can have beneficial effects by stimulating learning, directing certain behavior and improving performance by facilitating to strive towards institutional goals (Belschak, Den Hartog, 2009). However, feedback may not always bring positive emotions and most of the time is associated with negative implications regardless if it is given once a year or immediately after an incident. It all depends on how well it was presented and under which circumstances.
To begin with a formal feedback in terms of yearly evaluation, you are given a general overview of your performance as an employee with suggestions on the areas that need improvement. If it is effectively presented, the outcome of such feedback will help an individual to learn from his or her mistakes and will help pinpoint areas for growth and development (Payne, 2007). Where in contrast as Topchik, (2004) points out; an immediate and often less formal feedback involves “catching people doing something wrong and letting them know that they did something wrong.” (p. 100). Such feedback is usually negative in nature and may bring out adverse emotions in an employee unless it is presented in a proper way. The rules of discretion should always be observed in both cases; formal and informal feedback, such as delivering the news in privacy, describing in detail what an employee did wrong and avoiding judgmental behavior which might create defensiveness and resistance (Hicks, 2011).
As a leader and an employee, I’ve experienced formal feedback on numerous occasions. When my yearly evaluation was presented to me by my employer, I was often surprised to find comments in regards to my performance, concerning poor customer service area. The immediate questions that needed answers were: “why am I finding out about this problem one year later and why wasn’t this issues addressed at any meeting or face to face conversation?” Naturally, my reaction was disappointment and resentment, however, after reviewing my overall evaluation, I was able to come to my senses, evaluate where the customer service area needs improvement and set realistic goals to progress in the much-needed area.
Further, there are other ways as to how employers may express their reactions to employees’ or colleagues’ behavior, in terms of mentoring or coaching. This tactic has a different connotation and has a dissimilar purpose, where mentoring is used for problem focus and coaching is used for forward focus. In other words, mentoring involves advisement in regards to what course of action should be taken when the problem arises, where coaching in contrast deals with self-direct discovery to a problem through a brief conversation with an individual (Hicks, 2013). Both forms of communication are served to facilitate an individual to come to conclusion with less pessimism and more motivation and productivity.
Lastly, taking into consideration different forms of communication and how it affects individual’s motivation on the personal level if I was to provide a negative feedback to one of my employees, I’d probably use a combination of tactics. Before giving any feedback, a leader should always consider the consequences of such feedback and how it will affect not only an employee, his or her performance but the overall organizational environment. Besides composing myself and approaching an individual in a discreet private, none offensive way about the poor performance, I wouldn’t necessarily dwell much on negative feedback as the form of communication. As Goldsmith points out: “there is a fundamental problem with all types of feedback: it focuses on the past…” (p. 1). As a supervisor, I would be specific in regards to the source of the problem and would address the issue. However, as a solution to the obstacle, I would act as a mentor to an employee to set an example as to how I would have handled the situation on the professional level. I would also use a feedforward approach, which deals with giving someone a suggestion for the future and help them learn and develop in the future (Godsmith, 2002). I find this approach more effective for it has more positive connotation by nature, which will not provoke an individual in a defensive way. It will only motivate and foster positive behavior and will offer a solution the same problem in the forthcoming time.
Belschak, F.D., & Den Hrtog, D.N. (2009). Consequences of positive and negative feedback: The Impact on emotions and extra-role behaviors. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58(2), 274-303.
Goldsmith, M. (2002). Try feedforward instead of feedback. Retrieved from Walden Library.
Hicks, R., & McCracken, J. (2013). Popcorn coaching. Physician Executive, 39(1), 85-87.
Hicks, R. (2011). How to give difficult feedback. Physician Executive, 37(3), 84-87.
Payne, V. (2007). Delivering coaching feedback. In Coaching for High Performance (pp. 79-95). New York, NY: American Management Association International.
Topchik, G. S. (2004). The platinum skill of giving and receiving feedback. In Accidental Manager (pp. 99-127). New York, NY: American Management Association International.
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