You’ve heard it many times. “Praise in public, reprimand in private.” For as old as this advice is, it remains a tried and true way to handle most instances of employee feedback. Whether your team is big or small, it’s a smart guideline to go by.
But, there’s more to it than knowing whether to choose a group setting or behind a closed door for your conversation with an employee.
Let’s break it down
Praise is easy to give. It’s always welcome, and it’s well-received in a group setting (except, perhaps, for the very humble who embarrass easily). For the recipient, it feels good to know that others have been made aware of their accomplishment. And for the rest of the team, it’s an incentive to do well and strive for their own achievement and recognition.
Then there’s the matter of feedback that is less than stellar. You’ve been taught (or learned the hard way) to criticize in private. Employees and managers alike prefer to address performance issues on a one-on-one basis, without an audience. It allows for the conversation to be free from sugarcoating, and helps keep an employee’s ego intact. With privacy, they may be more inclined to own the issue at hand, and less inclined to make excuses.
There is an exception to this criticize-in-private approach, however. When the behavior or issue impacts other employees and/or team deliverables, keeping the criticism private may send the wrong message.
Employees that collaborate to produce joint outcomes and meet team deadlines need to know that they are accountable not only to you, but also to each other. As this Harvard Business Review article points out, criticizing in private can be the wrong approach because “…it significantly reduces accountability, the quality of team decisions, and your team’s ability to manage itself.”
This can be especially true within a smaller office or team as the employees typically have many duties or projects that in some way impact the whole staff.
Tips to be the most effective
Beyond knowing whether to give feedback in private or public, keep these tips in mind so that the feedback you offer is effective:
Comment on the outcome, behavior, missed deadline, etc., not the person. Keep your feedback objective and about a correctable issue or item.
Be specific. Give examples of whatever you’re addressing. Specificity makes both criticism and praise more effective. Actionable items rise to the top, and are clear for the receiver in a corrective conversation. In a praise scenario, you incent more positive behavior and achievement.
Be timely with your feedback. Don’t wait too long after the offending issue or praiseworthy item has occurred.
When possible, give criticism verbally first. If the problem scenario continues or reoccurs, only then move on to documenting it in writing. Said another way, when a corrective conversation has to be documented (as in the case of a warning), it should not be a surprise to the employee.
When an issue arises in the course of an email exchange, pick up the phone and talk it through whenever possible. Do this and then reply back in email to re-state or reinforce what was spoken about.
Negative feedback course corrects. Positive feedback inspires and motivates. Both are necessary to build and maintain a work team that rocks it, day in and day out.
Recognition that matters
As a component of building a high-performing office staff, knowing how to give constructive criticism is crucial. But, as another well-used quote goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” And that can result in employee praise and recognition taking a back seat.
What does success look like when offering praise and appreciation for a job well done?
These insights on employee recognition will help guide you when implementing a recognition program, or refreshing one you already have in place:
Employer benefits gained from well-done recognition include higher employee productivity and commitment, lower turnover, a positive workplace environment and better financial returns. (Source: Digitalist Magazine)
Recognition programs deemed most effective by millennials offer these three things: handwritten notes, experiential rewards like concert or other event tickets, and thank-yous from management and peers. (Source: HRDive and outsourcing company, Aon Hewitt)
Ideally, the ratio of praise and recognition versus criticism should be at least 5:1. This ratio represents the biggest difference between high and low-performing teams. (Source: ERE Media’s TLNT)
“Gallup’s data reveal that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized.” (Source: Gallup)
“The most effective staff recognition programs express appreciation frequently, and are tied to desirable behaviors, goals, culture, and personal accomplishments — not some arbitrary milestone.” (Source: Bonusly)
Employees say that recognition which comes from their manager is the most memorable (28%), followed by that which comes from a high-level leader or CEO (24%). (Source: Gallup)
It’s important to keep the praise you give sincere and specific, but frequency is also crucial to promoting workplace performance and values. Based on data gathered from surveys, Gallup suggests some form of recognition be offered approximately every seven days.
Employees who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. (Source: Gallup)
Bringing it all together
When you manage people, you cannot get away from giving feedback. No matter how adept you’ve become at having performance and praise conversations, consistently refreshing how you approach them is beneficial — not only for your practice, but also for your patients.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Tough conversations handled with fairness and discretion are opportunities to help your employees achieve success. And, showing genuine appreciation for employee actions and achievements can be personally rewarding for you.
Just ask Frank Blake, former HomeDepot CEO. He estimates he’s written 25,000 thank-you notes over the course of his career. Now that’s a lot of praise and gratitude!
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