Great managers take the time to provide balanced feedback to their employees, but it is a practice and skill that is difficult to master. Two common mistakes that managers make are to not provide enough critical feedback, or to provide only critical feedback.
Some managers are not critical enough, either because they dislike and avoid confrontation or because they fail to provide direct, thoughtful, specific, actionable feedback. Or because they are unable to overcome an employee’s unwillingness or defensiveness in accepting such feedback. In such cases, problems persist until they inevitably escalate and manifest, having to remove the employee from the project, team, or company.
Other managers make the mistake of their feedback being solely critical, focusing only on problems. I have observed this mistake when ineffective managers do not invest time in understanding and reinforcing what is going well. They may fear that positive feedback will somehow “ease the pressure” when things are not going smoothly, or they may simply not be culturally accustomed to giving praise. Some managers solely address concerns during one-on-one meetings and neglect to acknowledge the things that are going well. Others adopt the approach of “if you don’t hear any feedback from me, assume things are going well.” While these approaches may be time-efficient in the short term, they disregard the human need to receive good news alongside the bad. Exceptional managers recognize that they are leading human beings, and if employees only receive negative feedback, it will wear them down, impacting their engagement and ultimately their effectiveness.
As a manager, remember to invest time in providing balanced feedback. It should be constructive and critical to sharpen your employees' skills and help them improve, while also including positive feedback to reinforce what is working well and maintain their engagement. In both cases, take the time to cite illustrative examples to help employees clearly understand what needs to change, or what they should do more of.