There's a big push these days for in-the-moment feedback. This means that instead of a boss offering a critique of a worker's performance once a year, he or she will offer an immediate assessment after a worker takes action or completes a task.
For example, the boss might commend a worker's report on projected sales revenues, but then advise the employee that he needs to work on not getting defensive when asked questions about those figures by other team members.
That seems simple enough, and the worker can then take immediate steps to offer better responses when questioned by the team.
But sometimes things can go really wrong with this immediate feedback, especially if the manager hasn't really thought about what he is saying to the worker. Without some thought about what to say and how to say it, these in-the-moment feedback talks can become demoralizing and hurt creativity and productivity -- just the opposite of what a manager needs to achieve.
Here are things that managers need to think about:
1. Avoid comparisons. Those of us with siblings will understand that it was no fun when mom or dad said something like, "Your brother Jimmy understands the importance of taking care of his things and never would have left his bike in the rain." The same is true in the workplace: Don't compare one team member with another, such as "Janet is highly organized. When she did the same report last year, she didn't miss one deadline -- and that really helped the whole team."
2. Don't be a broken record. It doesn't help the employee if a manager only offers negative comments -- or only positive ones. Workers don't need a "good job!" every time they complete a full sentence, and they also don't need sighs and eye rolls every time they stumble. Managers need to work on striking the right balance: Always try to be fair and give the worker credit for making progress but don't shy away from pointing out what needs to be improved so the worker can experience greater success in his or her career.
3. Let the employee speak. Feedback isn't just about the manager offering assessments and then walking away. It also needs to be about engaging the worker to critique his own performance and thinking about ways to do things differently or to improve. Tell the worker you're not there to punish or threaten -- you're there to help him or her improve: "How did you feel about your presentation? Did you feel like it went as you planned or was there something you would like to have done differently?"
Finally, always try approach the feedback talk with the goal of solving a problem and not as a way to assess the other person's character or jump to conclusions about why he or she took a specific action.