The ‘USP’ and ‘MYIP’ of employee feedback


An attempt to highlight the importance of feedback and identify some derailers that lead to failure in the process.

Anna was at work after a vacation. As she scanned through the heaps of mails, there was one which brought an instant smile on her face. It was a mail from her manager, which read, “The business is delighted with your presentation. Your hard work and commitment has paid off. I am proud of you.”

This token of appreciation definitely made Anna’s day.

It is an accepted fact that people experience a sense of achievement when they receive acknowledgments. However, how impactful is acknowledgement without proper feedback?

According to a survey by the consulting firm, Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., globally, 43 per cent of employees feel that they do not get enough feedback to improve their performance.

Truly alarming! This implies that almost half the employees across the world do not have an understanding of how to move up the ladder.

Feedback can provide an impartial view of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it is vital to include both in a feedback.

Referring to Anna’s example again, could her manager give the feedback differently?

May be he could also define the scope for further improvement by saying,” You have impressed business with your presentation. May be next time a few more examples will help in persuading them completely.” This input from the manager could motivate Anna to prepare and deliver an improved version of the presentation in future.

By including both the positive and development areas in a feedback session, one can also be groomed for senior roles. Likewise, managers need to essentially plan for a smooth transition from one role to another by sharing feedback with team members.

A question that we are forced to ponder over is why do leaders hesitate to share feedback?

Is it because previous attempts in giving feedback were not successful or because they were infrequent, not planned, uncomfortable or indirect?

There are many ways to deal with these issues.

To begin with, an understanding of the individual’s need is important to determine whether feedback has to be given in private or needed for reinforcement.

For instance, appreciating a shy person in a closed group is more appropriate, than in open fora where she could be uncomfortable. At the same time, a fresher will need feedback frequently for reinforcement.

Likewise, other factors leading to success depend on USP, where U stands for ‘unbiased with sincerity of purpose’, S for ‘specific’ and P for ‘positive relationship’.

Unbiased with sincerity of purpose
Positive feedback should be balanced throughout the team. If a select few receive appreciation all the time, the neglected members may get demotivated. At the same time, if a leader only talks about positives, then the purpose of feedback is lost and the recipient may also doubt the genuineness. At the same time, by just sharing development feedback, the leader could appear unduly critical.

It is important to address specific situations if we really want continuous improvement. For instance, Ron was confused when he received a feedback from his manager saying, “I am concerned because the engineers have complained against you.’’

Instead, his manager could be specific by saying, “Engineers were confused with the unclear instructions in your mail, hence, the outcomes were adverse. Can we discuss ways to bring in more clarity in your instructions?

Positive relationships
A good working relationship makes both positive and development feedback sessions effective. If the relationship is positive, a positive feedback is accepted and development feedback is analysed by the recipient. However, when the relationship is negative, the recipient starts doubting a positive feedback and may ignore the development one.

While demonstration of USP is vital, being rigid with MYIP, provides answers to why feedback sessions get derailed. In MYIP, M stands for ‘monologue’, Y for ‘yes-but’, I for ‘ irregular’ and P for ‘privacy’.

Sometimes, feedback is shared without allowing the receiver to speak. Listening is the most powerful skill in these sessions. A leader can encourage a two-way communication to allow the receiver to speak. For example, whenever I am given the opportunity to share my perspectives, I am motivated to implement the suggestions.

Yes-But feedback
If a “Yes-But” phrase is used in a feedback session, it may disrupt the outcome. The positive part of the feedback may lose its value and remain unheard if ‘but’ is used between positive and development feedback.

For instance, “Yes, your presentation style is amazing, but you always tend to be repetitive.” In this case, the feedback appears as a criticism. Here, the rejoinder can begin with ‘however’.

Irregular, indirect and untimely feedback
The impact of instant feedback is always positive. Delayed or sporadic feedback is as good as no feedback. Often, leaders beat around the bush when it comes to giving development feedback. They talk about everything except the real issue. The feedback then loses its essence.

Critical feedback needs to be shared in private. Can a feedback session during appraisal discussion be conducted in public? It may lead to loss of trust.

Thus, by making every feedback session effective, we can encourage growth, meaningful communication, trust and employee engagement. We can also ensure retention and reduced stress in a team.

(The author is part of the leadership and people sciences team at Wipro.)

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