Feedback, feedback, feedback. Executives of companies are encountering this term increasingly often. And rightfully so! Every employee has a right for a regular evaluation of his or her performance and behavior on the job.This not only serves the individual but also the company itself: companies with active exchange- and feedback systems have 20 to 30% higher employee engagement and performance rates (Deloitte study: Global Human Capital Trends 2015). Millennials especially are very intent on feedback and coaching.
But careful (!): whoever gives feedback is easily prone to typical evaluation mistakes that are important to avoid.
Primacy and Recency
The primacy effect describes the phenomenon in which the first perception of a person remains dominant in one´s memory. The recency effect, in contrast, applies to the last events and points of contact with that person that are still recent in one´s memory.
You are preparing yourself for a feedback meeting with employee X. Instinctively, you remember that he was very nervous and restrained in the first conversation. Additionally, you have noticed that employee X has often arrived late to work in the last two weeks. You take this information with you to the talk.
Preceding impressions have shrunken in your memory and no longer factor in your overall feedback response.
Take time regularly for an objective consideration of your employees; attain an accurate view of their way of working. Set common goals and take stock during the feedback. This is how you can avoid the earlier described detrimental effects.
Premature Conclusions and Prejudices
Premature conclusions and prejudices happen on a daily basis without further examination. It is a kind of gut instinct that oftentimes simply does not match reality.
For example, you may notice employee X leaving the office to go smoke two or three times. Your interpretation may be, „employee X is constantly taking smoking breaks and avoiding work.“ There is no proof for this hasty conclusion , however, and most likely it is not the truth. Prejudices also happen without such a „trigger moment,“ because all people are prone to having preconceived notions or opinions. This makes unbiased observations rare and falsified evaluations all too common. Often, prejudices are based on commonly accepted stereotypes, such as „work performance diminishes for elder employees over time.“
Communicating these prejudices or hasty conclusions to the employee leads to self-fulfilling prophecies and low motivation.
The Contact Effect and Reference Levels
The contact effect describes the tendency to judge employees with whom one has frequent contact more positively. Through the frequent contact, you as executive know these employees better and vice versa. You are a well-practiced team. It is more difficult, in this regard, with new employees or people who have less frequent contact with you. Try to be equally open to these employees and put your main emphasis on their performance.
As executive, one has a role model function and, in the best case, serves as a mentor for ones employees. Here, it happens quickly, that one judges others by one´s own standards. This inclination can have the effect of making one´s own performance and way of working the benchmark and reference point during feedback talks.
Employees should not have to measure themselves with the executive. During your assessment, pay attention to gauge performance based on concrete observations, goals and values of the company instead.
Conclusion: the 7 Golden Rules
- Be self-critical with regards to your own discernment capabilities and realize the possibility of making mistakes.
- Avoid generalizations.
- Feedback results over an extended period of time. Take the time to observe your employees in a variety of situations and do not make any hasty conclusions.
- Assess employees based on the given instructions of the task and if these requirements have been met.
- Be aware of the fact that your view is based on the particular reference point of work situations.
- Do not compare your employees to one another or yourself. You are not an adequate reference point.
- Take ample time to prepare for the feedback talk and for the talk itself.
Your feedback will help employees to work towards clear goals, bring out their strengths and work on their weaknesses, as well as increasing employee motivation in the workplace.
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